Work-related fatalities drop in Oregon, spike in Washington

Washington was a much more dangerous place to work than Oregon last year, according to job-related fatality statistics released by both states.

Seventeen workers were killed on the job in Oregon in 2010, according to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OR-OSHA), compared to 86 workers in Washington, according to the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Oregon fatalities are down 31 from the previous year, while Washington’s are up by 21. Factors that contributed to the increase were an explosion that took the lives of seven refinery workers and a series of plane crashes that took seven more workers’ lives.

In Oregon, it should be noted that only fatalities accepted by the state’s workers’ compensation system were included in OR-OSHA’s report. Excluded were city of Portland police and fire employees, federal employees, self-employed, and those who worked in Oregon for an out-of-state employer. When counting those, the number of fatalities in 2010 is 27. Another dozen died from heart attacks while at work.

Data on all deaths caused by injuries in Oregon workplaces — regardless of whether they are covered by workers’ compensation insurance — are computed separately and reported in the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) administered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The 2010 CFOI report won’t be released until this fall. Its most recent data for 2009 reports 66 work-related deaths in Oregon.

[The Northwest Labor Press’ annual Workers Memorial Day edition lists the names of all workers that it knows of who died while at work. Last year’s list for 2009 fatalities included 58 names.]

Trucking, logging and manufacturing industries saw the largest concentration of deaths last year in Oregon (11), while in Washington machine-related incidents were the number one cause of fatalities (19).

There were no compensable construction deaths in Oregon 2010 — a significant improvement from 12 fatalities as recently as 2007.

“One of the reasons for the decrease in workplace fatalities is certainly the impact of the economy, particularly on those higher-risk sectors such as manufacturing, construction, or logging,” OR-OSHA Administrator Michael Wood wrote in the agency’s newsletter.

Last year in Washington, 18 workers were killed in motor vehicle incidents; nine were struck by falling objects; seven died by explosion; seven died in falls; four by homicide; two by electrocution; and one due to an injury caused by an animal.

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