Dying for Work in Massachusetts Released

April 28, 2015

On July 23, 2014, Jason Faria, a 26-year-old Fall River native was working for Diaz Construction Co., a concrete company, on top of a concrete form that was incorrectly attached. The form came loose and fell, crushing him underneath. Faria died on site from his injuries just 3 days before his 27th birthday. He was one of the 50 individuals who lost their lives last year because of work. Click here to download the report*

Today, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupation Safety and Health (MassCOSH) released Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces, a new report documenting the loss of life taking place at worksites across Massachusetts. The 27-page report details how workers like Faria lost their lives on the job in 2014 as well as what must be done to keep workers safe.
Dying for Work also finds that the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is underfunded and that monetary penalties for violations of the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH) Act have been increased only once in 40 years despite inflation. As a result, the fines available under the OSH Act are inadequate to deter employers from creating unsafe jobs.
The report also highlights several additional concerning statistics, including:

  • Transportation workers, including taxi, bus and truck drivers, suffered the highest number of fatalities, with nine on-the-job deaths, 23% of all fatal injuries;
  • Falls from heights were among the most common cause of worker deaths, accounting for nine deaths;
  • Firefighters suffered heavy losses this year, with two men dying while fighting a Back Bay fire and 10 more passing away from occupational illnesses, a lesser known cause of death for this profession;
  • Workplace homicides continue to claim workers regardless of profession, with three workers murdered in 2014 and another three in the first three months of 2015;
  • In 2013 (the most recent data available) there were 78,000 cases of non-fatal injuries and illnesses in the state;
  • The average fine assessed to an employer with OSHA violations resulting in the death of a worker was just $12,900. 

“What’s so disheartening about this report is that unsafe jobs are taking, on average, the life of one worker nearly every week,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Executive Director of MassCOSH. “That means every week, a family is reeling from the loss of a loved one and co-workers are traumatized after witnessing a death.  Given that nearly all these fatalities were preventable, we urgently need to step up enforcement to deter employers from putting workers’ lives at risk.”
“The names and faces change from year to year, but we see so many of the same tragic circumstances that lead to preventable workplace deaths every year,” added Steven Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “It shows that our fight for safer workplaces is far from over.”
The release of Dying for Work in Massachusetts coincides with Workers’ Memorial Day, an event observed around the world every year on April 28 to remember workers killed and injured on the job. In Massachusetts, Workers’ Memorial Day was commemorated on the steps of the State House at noon and was observed by slain workers’ family members, union representatives, safety experts, and state officials.
"Workers’ Memorial Day serves as a somber reminder for the need for stronger occupational safety and health standards at the national and state level," said Rich Rogers, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council.

The report uncovers a wide range of measures that would avert the needless loss of life and limb, including:

  • Strengthen the ability of federal OSHA and the state Department of Labor to deter employer violations by providing sufficient funding and penalties;
  • Enact laws that hold employers responsible for their subcontracted and temporary workers;
  • Extend safety and health protections to public employees that are at least as protective as federal OSHA standards.

*After printing, the International Association of Fire Fighters updated their Line of Duty Deaths database to include the late Thomas O'Reilly, 62, of Framingham who died in July 2014 of occupational-related pancreatic cancer.