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Number of on-the-job deaths falls, Wash. ranks third lowest

Andre Mondou

Washington state seems to be a safer place for workers than most other places in the country. A new report says the state has the third lowest workplace fatality rate in the nation. 

New Hampshire had the lowest workplace death rate, followed by Rhode Island, then Washington. The three states with the highest on-the-job death rates were North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

The report comes from AFL-CIO, which has been conducting workplace fatality studies for 22 years. The group used 2011 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, says our state has more workplace safety inspectors than many other parts of the country.

"We know that when an employer is visited by an inspector or a consultation person, then accidents and deaths go down in the next year or two," Johnson said. 

The report says it would take Washington Department of Labor and Industries inspectors 42 years to visit each workplace. That sounds pretty bad, but Washington and Oregon ranked the best in the country for the number of inspectors per workplace.

South Dakota, Arkansas and Florida have so few inspectors that it would take more than 200 years to visit each work site. 

The report says 60 people died on the job in Washington in 2011—the lowest level since at least 1995.

Elaine Fischer with the Department of Labor and Industries says workplaces have gotten safer, but the recession also played a role. Fewer people going to work means fewer deaths on the job.

"So we’re very concerned that as economic activity picks up in these different sectors that the numbers of deaths and injuries will increase," Fischer said. 

She says there were 23 construction industry deaths in 2006. In 2011, six construction workers died on the job. Fischer says the department will hold a construction safety day in Puyallup on Wednesday with workshops on accident prevention, scaffolding and truck safety. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.