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Why Are Workplace Fatalities Rising in New Jersey?

Why Are Workplace Fatalities Rising in NJ?

After a sharp drop in 2014, workplace fatalities in New Jersey rose in 2015 and again in 2016, according to data recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. NJ.com reports that the Garden State ranked 17th in the nation in workplace fatalities in 2016 with 101 deaths from occupational injuries. In its analysis of the Bureau’s findings, NJ.com sought to answer two questions: What are the most dangerous occupations in the state, and why are workplace fatalities in New Jersey on the rise?

The most hazardous industries are in the private sector and include transportation, warehousing, and waste services. The greatest number of deaths, 27, was seen in the transportation and material moving occupations, while construction and extraction followed with 19 deaths. NJ.com listed installation, maintenance and repair, protective services, and production among other dangerous jobs in New Jersey.

Nationally, the five deadliest occupations from 1990 to 2013 were:

  • Drivers of heavy trucks and tractor-trailers — 250
  • Construction laborers — 177
  • Laborers and freight, stock, and material mover/handlers — 73
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs — 67
  • First-line supervisors of retail sales workers — 63

The leading causes of fatal worksite accidents in New Jersey in 2016 included:

  • Transportation incidents (motor vehicle accidents)
  • Falls, slips and trips
  • Exposure to harmful substances
  • Contact with objects and equipment

Workers killed on the job were mostly white males between 45 and 54 years of age. Of the 101 people fatally injured in New Jersey work accidents, 95 were men and only six were women.

The increase in workplace deaths, according to Carmen Martino, co-director of Rutgers University’s Occupational Training and Education Consortium, is simply a consequence of an improved economy. More people at work means more people getting hurt at work, some fatally. Plus, the industries that are now booming, such as construction, tend to be more dangerous than occupations that are generally recession-proof, such as those in local, state, and federal government. However, Martino cautions against accepting an increasing death toll as the inevitable by-product of an improved economy.

We quite agree. Employers cannot be complacent when it comes to safety and then blame fate or careless workers when tragedy strikes. It’s easy to view accidents, even fatal ones, as individual failures. But when employers view each accident as a system failure, they are more likely to make improvements to their system, and in doing so reduce future accidents, saving lives and improving the company’s bottom line.

Unfortunately, New Jersey workers’ compensation law shields negligent employers from liability for most workplace accidents, even when safety violations cause an injury. It’s ironic that a law which provides a safety net for injured workers also removes what could be the greatest incentive for employers to keep their workers safe. Profit is the employer’s greatest incentive, and in many inherently dangerous industries, such as commercial transportation and construction, the employer’s pursuit of profit often increases risk to employees.

Brach Eichler handles workers’ compensation appeals and personal injury lawsuits, as well as wrongful death claims after fatal work accidents. If you have questions about your rights in any such case, call us at 973-364-8300 or contact our office online.

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