The most recent figures on workplace fatalities from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that deaths due to injuries on the job decreased from 4,628 in 2012 to 4,405 in 2013. In the private industry sector, fatal injuries fell by 6 percent between 2012 and 2013. Younger workers were safer on the job; BLS reported only five fatal work injuries among individuals under 16 years of age, the lowest number ever recorded by the agency. The news is not all good, however. Workplace deaths among Hispanics increased by about 7 percent during the same time period. More than half of these involved workers were not born in the United States. Fatalities due to aircraft accidents accounted for 8 percent of all workplace deaths in the transportation sector and were up by 5 percent in 2013 compared with 2012 figures. Firefighters were also hard hit in 2013, mainly due to wildfires and other incidents in which multiple individuals lost their lives. For the families of those lost, retaining the services of a Houston industrial accident lawyer can often provide the legal assistance needed to protect their rights. Contractors Continue to Be at Risk BLS figures also show that contract employees continue to be at higher risk in the workplace and constituted roughly 17 percent of all work fatalities in 2013. In all, 734 contractors lost their lives in 2013 compared with 715 in the previous year. Contractors in the gas and oil extraction and construction industries accounted for about half of these deaths. A number of Houston petrochemical plant accidents in recent years have highlighted the risks to individuals working in the oil industry. Ensuring Safety in the Workplace These figures offer hope for employees in high-risk occupations. More remains to be done, however, to protect worker safety and to reduce the number of injuries and deaths even further. Three key issues must be addressed to ensure the safest and most productive environment for workers across a wide range of industries:
- A comprehensive corporate safety plan should be created and enforced to provide a framework within which training programs and equipment can be deployed and used most effectively.
- Education programs must be implemented to ensure that staff members understand the risks inherent in their working environment and maintain best safety practices at all times. If English is a second language for some workers, it is advisable to offer safety training in both English and in the primary language of these staff members to ensure that they understand the rules and principles of the company safety plan clearly.
- Safety equipment must be provided and maintained according to the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly referred to as OSHA. Employees must also be trained in the proper use of this equipment with regular refresher courses to ensure optimal safety in the workplace.
Companies that fail to institute these safety measures can be found negligent by OSHA and may be liable for compensation and damages if workers are injured or killed as a result of their failures. For families who have been the victims of a Houston wrongful death in an industrial accident, working with qualified attorneys with experience in this legal field can often provide some small measure of closure for these losses. Industrial accident lawyers can represent families in obtaining fair compensation for their emotional distress, potential lost wages and other expenses related to the wrongful death. This can potentially provide added incentives for employers to protect their workers against known risks and to institute safety programs in accordance with OSHA regulations. By working with an experienced legal team, victims of workplace accidents and their families can ensure the largest settlements for their losses and the best representation in and out of the courtroom.