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Secretary of Labor responds to annual worker fatality data

When preventable tragedy strikes in the workplace, it is critical that federal regulators, employers and employees learn as much as they can from the incident in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Recently, data on how many fatal work accident tragedies occurred in the U.S. in 2012 was released. The only benefit that Americans can hope to gain from this tragic loss of life is wisdom that can be used to prevent future fatal workplace accidents.

Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries was released a few short weeks ago. This data indicates that 4,383 American workers died from work-related injuries or occupational illnesses last year. While that number represents a decline from the 4,693 work-related fatalities that occurred in 2011, the number is still far too high for American workers and their families to bear.

In response to the data, the U.S. Secretary of Labor admitted that he was encouraged by the decline in worker fatalities overall. However, he also emphasized that “Workers in this country have the right to return home safe and healthy at the end of a work day. Despite that right, poor safety conditions cause thousands of people each year to lose their lives at work.” He went on to insist that “We can and must do better… we will continue to engage with employers to make sure that these fatality numbers go down further.”

There is much to be learned from every preventable work-related death. Federal regulators must insist that these lessons be learned and that those employers who refuse to do what they can to prevent work-related deaths be held accountable.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “Statement by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez on fatal occupational injuries in 2012,” Aug. 22, 2013

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