Workplace deaths declined in Washington last year

The Bellingham Business Journal

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released its preliminary statistics for 2009, reporting that work-related deaths declined in Washington last year to numbers not seen since 2000.

The BLS, which produces an annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, reported 75 deaths in the state, down from 83 reported in 2008. Over the past decade, an average of 86 people per year have died in Washington from work-related injuries, according to the federal census, placing last year’s toll well below the average.

“We know much of this decline is likely due to fewer people working during this economic recession,” Labor & Industries Director Judy Schurke said. “But many industries have also worked hard to improve workplace safety and L&I has continued to increase its efforts in providing safety and health information to employers.”

Efforts include workshops throughout the state, free safety and health consultations and improving outreach among Spanish-speaking workers.

Workplace deaths in the construction industry, which is typically among the most hazardous professions in the state, had the most dramatic decline, with 9 fatalities in 2009, compared to 20 the year before. Construction is also an area that has been hit hard by the recession.

While deaths due to workplace violence nationally saw a slight decline, in Washington, the numbers climbed with 14 on-the-job homicides in 2009. Several of those deaths involved the fatal shootings of law enforcement officers.

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