WBUR News WBUR News

Support the news

Report: Workplace Death Rate Hits 10-Year High In Mass.

A response team works to recover the bodies of two men who were trapped in a trench during a water main break on Dartmouth Street in Boston's South End in October. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A response team works to recover the bodies of two men who were trapped in a trench during a water main break on Dartmouth Street in Boston's South End in October. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 3 years old.

The rate of workplace deaths in Massachusetts is at a 10-year high, according to a labor-aligned report out Thursday.

There were 70 workplace fatalities in 2016, per the report, for a rate of 2 deaths per 100,000 employees. In 2012, for comparison, there were 32 workplace fatalities — a rate of 1 death per 100,000 employees.

Of last year's 70 fatalities, 62 workers died of fatal injuries on the job. Another eight firefighters died from work-related illnesses, including lung and esophageal cancers, leukemia and heart attacks.

The report is produced by the nonprofit Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.

Twenty-five of last year's workplace fatalities were the result of transportation incidents, the report said. Seventeen were from falls, slips or trips; 11 were the result of contact with objects or equipment; seven were due to exposure to harmful substances or a dangerous environment; and two were attributed to violence.

Construction was by far the most dangerous sector, accounting for 24 of last year's fatal injuries.

The report mentions the deaths of two drain cleaning workers, who drowned in Boston in October when a trench they were working in flooded after a water main break.

The incident — the report labels it a "preventable worksite tragedy" — led to manslaughter charges against the owner of the drain cleaning company, which had been cited for prior safety violations, and changes in city work permit policy.

"Trenching is among the most dangerous work in construction," the report states. "In Massachusetts, over the past five years, four workers have died in trench-related accidents."

The report advocates for stronger worker protections, including legislation that would hold companies that "subcontract, outsource, or use temporary agencies jointly responsible for wages and the health and safety of those workers."

"This report has been compiled to highlight these tolls," the report says. "The saddest aspect of the loss of lives and limbs is that work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable."

Earlier:

Benjamin Swasey Twitter Digital Manager
Ben is WBUR's digital news manager.

More…

+Join the discussion
TwitterfacebookEmail

Support the news