New Mass. Map Highlights the Toll of Worker Deaths

April 21, 2016

Click here to view Ten Years of Dying at Work in Massachusetts. Click here to view Every Worker Lost at the Workplace (2006 – 2015).

An interactive map showing 559 Massachusetts worker fatalities over the last decade shows that dangerous jobs have claimed workers’ lives in nearly every city and town in the Commonwealth. With most fatalities considered preventable, advocates are hoping that this map will highlight the need for stronger workplace protections to stem the needless loss of life.
Click here to view Ten Years of Dying at Work in Massachusetts.

“For 40 years, MassCOSH has been calling on employers and elected officials to do more to save the lives of workers who are putting themselves at unnecessary risk just to earn a paycheck,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “Yet each week, an average of one Massachusetts worker loses his or her life on the job. We hope that this interactive tool puts a face behind that number as well as illustrate the cumulative toll that just one decade of unsafe jobs has had on the Bay State.”

Fully interactive, Ten Years of Dying at Work in Massachusetts locates deaths on the job that occurred in the years 2006 to 2015. The data points give the name of the individual, details of the event that took their life, and many include a picture of the worker.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of workers in the private sector by setting and enforcing standards. Created by Congress under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and signed by President Richard Nixon on December 29, 1970, OSHA has been credited with saving an estimated 75,000 and preventing millions of injuries and illnesses.

Still, OSHA is woefully underfunded and OSHA’s penalties, essential to deterring employers, are insufficient. Increased only once in over 40 years, these fines can often be cut substantially - even if a worker is killed on the job. Advocates argue that it’s often cheaper for an employer to ignore hazards on the jobsite and just pay the fines rather than invest the time and resources to protect workers’ health and well-being.

Ten Years of Dying at Work in Massachusetts totals the human cost of careless employers and insufficient federal deterrence. The matter is made even more tragic by the startling OSHA estimate that for every worker killed on the job, another ten die of occupational injuries and illnesses such as cancer. Were these deaths tracked as well, the map would have a total of 5,590 data points representing a lost worker.

With International Workers Memorial Day taking place April 28, advocates plan on using the event, the map, and a report on 2015 Massachusetts workplace fatalities to urge elected officials to make occupational safety and health a higher public health priority.

“One first step the state can take is to provide our Department of Labor Standards with the resources it needs to ensure worker health and safety,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “Many people aren’t aware that our state labor department is responsible for protecting all workers from asbestos and lead exposure and for ensuring the overall safety and health of public employees. The legislature is considering an amendment to more adequately fund this important agency and we hope that this map will give them one more reason to do so.”

Ten Years of Dying at Work in Massachusetts and Every Worker Lost at the Workplace (2006 – 2015)  were made in collaboration with the NuLawLab, an interdisciplinary innovation laboratory at Northeastern University School of Law that is working to imagine, design, test, and implement pioneering approaches to legal empowerment.

“NuLawLab is honored to partner with MassCOSH to visualize the very real impact of unsafe workplaces in the Commonwealth,” said Executive Director Dan Jackson.  “We hope these compelling maps will help elevate the issue of workplace safety in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

This year, MassCOSH and its partners will be observing Workers Memorial Day on the main steps of the Massachusetts State House.