DAYTON — Workplace fatalities in Ohio edged down slightly last year, making 2012 the second least deadly year for workers in more than two decades, according to preliminary data released in late August.
Last year, about 154 Ohio workers were killed by injuries and illnesses related to their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Automobile crashes were the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the state.
The deadliest occupations included those in agriculture, transportation, and construction.
Though some jobs are inherently more dangerous than others, all work environments contain safety risks, such as slippery surfaces, moving machinery, or poor ventilation.
But workplace deaths are preventable and employers have a responsibility to mitigate safety hazards through education, training, monitoring working conditions, and providing proper equipment, experts said.
“I think we can do better and drive the rates lower, even though we probably will never be able to eliminate [all workplace deaths],” said Bill Wilkerson, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s area director for the Cincinnati office.
On July 27, 2012, a worker for Dayton-based ATW Automation Inc. was caught and pinned by a conveyor that had lowered during a “power down” process at the Mound Street facility, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The worker was trapped in the machine for about five minutes.
The worker suffered blunt force trauma and he died from those injuries Aug. 3.
Two days earlier, a 60-year-old temporary worker with A.H. Sturgill Roofing Inc. in Dayton was hospitalized after suffering a heat stroke in Miamisburg, the labor department said.
The man worked in direct sunlight on a commercial flat roof and his job responsibilities included throwing rubber roofing material into a dump truck.
He died three weeks after he was admitted to the hospital as a result of medical problems related to heat exposure.
Exposure to the elements and machinery are just a few of the dangers facing Ohio workers.
Last year, workers across the state died from injuries and illnesses caused by falls, falling objects, chemical exposure, firearms, co-workers, and other sources, according to preliminary data released by the Ohio Department of Health.
Work-related fatalities in Ohio dipped slightly from 155 in 2011, meaning the death toll was the second lowest since 1992, when the federal government began collecting and publishing the data, preliminary figures show.
Work-related deaths hit a low of 137 in 2009.
But every job has safety risks, especially jobs that involve getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Cars, buses, vans, and freight or utility trucks played a role in the deaths of 38 Ohio workers last year, and 16 others were killed by off-road and industrial vehicles, such as forklifts, platform trucks, and tractors.
“Motor vehicle accidents [remain] the No. 1 killer across all of the industries in Ohio,” said Bruce Loughner, technical safety adviser with the division of safety and hygiene with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
In addition to vehicle crashes, falls are a major safety threat, especially in the construction industry where employees often must work on elevated platforms, Mr. Loughner said.
Eighteen workers last year were also killed by machinery equipment and five were killed by falling trees, logs, and limbs.
Seven Ohio workers last year were killed after falling from ladders.
Dangerous working conditions and insufficient training about safety hazards play a role in many workplace deaths, Mr. Wilkerson said.
Workers often are killed by falls from ladders because they do not use the equipment appropriately or do not have access to the right type of ladder or do not follow the manufacturers’ instructions, he said.
Some tree trimmers in Ohio have died because the industry often relies on day laborers, who receive no safety training and have insufficient supervision, Mr. Wilkerson said.
Employers have a responsibility to provide their workers with safety equipment they need and teach them about the risks involved in their work, Mr. Wilkerson said.
ATW Automation was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for nine safety violations after the worker was killed at the local facility. The case has been settled.
A.H. Sturgill Roofing was cited for two serious safety violations after the roofer died from complications related to heat stroke. The company is challenging the citations, saying the worker had medical issues unknown to the employer and the case is to go to trial next year.