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Workers' compensation program helps reduce worker deaths in N.C.

Increasing awareness about worker safety and health is making a difference in the number of workplace deaths not only in North Carolina, but across the country as well. Safety regulations and federal and state workers' compensation insurance programs are going a long way in improving worker safety. The number of North Carolinian workers who died on the job decreased from 53 to 38 from 2011 to 2012, and last year saw 23 deaths in the state.

Most of the deaths were caused by being hit by a vehicle or a falling object. The second highest cause of death was falls. Machinery, inhalation of hazardous material and electrocution caused the remainder of the last year's workplace deaths.

Even though the fatality numbers are falling, losing even one worker is tragic, highlighting that more must be done to protect workers, as the Labor Commissioner rightly pointed out. All those who died were men, with an average age of 44. These men were brothers, fathers, friends, sons and husbands, and each death must have left behind family members and loved ones struggling to get over their loss. The pain suffered by surviving family member includes not only emotional harm, but also financial damage.

It is an employer's duty to provide a safe working environment for their workers. When they fail to do so, an injured worker or a deceased workers' family can file a workers' compensation claim. Not only will the victims have a chance to receive compensation that may cover medical expenses and replace lost wages, but highlighting the incident may force an employer to rectify safety violations and prevent future similar accidents.

Source: News Observer, "Workplace deaths declined again in North Carolina last year," Richard Stradling, Jan. 16, 2013

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