Bad News in the Badlands

Farming for Development: Wheat Field iIn North DakotaI’m not sure if it’s the kind of title they want to be the reigning champions of, but North Dakota still has the highest employee death rate in the United States. In 2012 they witnessed 17.7 worker deaths per 100,000 employees. 2013 data will likely be released soon so we will see if they hit this unfortunate milestone again.

According to the AFL-CIO, they also had the highest nationwide death rates in 2011 with 12.4 employee deaths per 100,000 employees. The national figure in 2011 was 3.5 deaths per 100,000, and in 2011 it is estimated that 4,693 workers were killed nationwide. Other states that had high fatality rates were Wyoming (11.6 deaths) and Alaska (11.1).

These are states that are known for professions like agriculture, logging, mining and fishing which are known to have higher rates of worker deaths to begin with. More so than your average office environment for sure. New Hampshire had 1.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

Bill Wuolo is a training director for the North Dakota Safety Council and said that because of the state’s oil and economic boom there has been an increased need for workers, and a lot of inexperienced workers have come there to fill the void. That combination is not necessarily good for safety numbers.

OSHA records from 2013 state that for the estimated 379,432 workers in North Dakota there are only 8 OSHA inspectors. According to benchmarks set by the ILO that number should look more like 38. There is one inspector for every 47,429 employees.

Maine recently announced their free training programs in May, “SafetyWorks!” as part of their efforts to try and prevent workplace injuries. Other programs like this around the country do a lot to educate employers and keep workers safe.

Workplace conditions have improved over the years, but that does not mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to make sure they continually strive for safety.

What's your take? Continue the discussion with others over at the WCInsights LinkedIn Group.
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