Dangerous jobs killed 48 workers in Massachusetts

April 28, 2014

For Immediate Release
John Drinkwater                                                         Marcy Goldstein-Gelb
Massachusetts AFL-CIO                                            MassCOSH
jdrinkwater@massaflcio.org                                        marcy.gelb@masscosh.org
(O) 781-324-8230                                                       (C) (617) 642-1878
NEW REPORT: Dangerous jobs killed 48 workers in Massachusetts 
In 2013, falls and workplace homicides among leading causes of workplace deaths
4/25/2014 BOSTON, MA     On October 22, 2013, authorities found the body of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer behind the school she worked for as a teacher in Danvers, MA. A victim of workplace homicide, Ritzer became the 40th worker to be killed on the job in 2013. By the end of the year, eight more workers would lose their lives, bringing the total killed to 48.

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 Ritzer lost their lives on the job in 2013 as well as what must be done to keep workers safe.
Dying for Work also highlights the startling rate at which occupational illnesses are killing workers. In 2013, the report estimates 480 workers died in Massachusetts from occupational disease. It also states a conservative estimate of 1,800 workers in Massachusetts who were newly diagnosed with cancers caused by workplace exposures, and 50,000 as the number of workers seriously injured on the job.
The report also highlights several additional concerning statistics, including:

  • Falls of all types caused almost one-fifth (9 out of 48) of all occupational fatalities in Massachusetts in 2013. Six of the nine falls occurred in the construction industry.
  • Being crushed in machines or struck by equipment was another leading cause of workplace deaths, accounting for nine worker deaths.
  • 19% of fallen workers were immigrants (9 out of 48), an increase from the previous year (9%) and greater than their representation in the state (14.4% in 2012)
  • OSHA lacks funding, staff and tools to deter violations. It would currently take over 100 years for OSHA to inspect each workplace under its jurisdiction in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts in 2013, the average fine (based on final penalties) assessed to an employer with OSHA violations resulting in the death of a worker was just $6,577. 
“Too often workplace fatalities are called ‘freak accidents’,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Executive Director of MassCOSH.  “Calling it “freak” means that it has never happened before and will never happen again so there is no need to change anything.  This report confirms that most workplace deaths can be prevented if proper safety measures are implemented.”

Steven Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO added that “one preventable workplace death is too many. Worker safety needs to be the main concern for our employers in Massachusetts. Safety regulations need to be strengthened and enforced to ensure our loved ones are not unnecessarily risking their lives by simply going to work.”
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.

To protect workers, the report stresses many actions be taken, including strengthened OSHA regulations and enforcement, including use of criminal prosecution to deter employers who recklessly endanger workers’ lives and passing legislation to extend OSHA protections to public employees.

About the Massachusetts AFL-CIO
The Massachusetts AFL-CIO is the largest umbrella labor organization in the Commonwealth, representing hundreds of thousands of working families from member unions and serves as the voice of working families in Massachusetts. Offices are located at 389 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148. For additional information, contact John Drinkwater at 781-324-8230 or visit www.massaflcio.org.
About the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH)
MassCOSH is a nonprofit coalition, bringing together workers, unions, community groups, and health, safety and environmental activists to organize and advocate for safe, secure jobs and healthy communities throughout eastern and central Massachusetts. Through training, technical assistance and building community/labor alliances, MassCOSH mobilizes its members and develops leaders in the movement to end unsafe work conditions. For more information, contact Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb at 617-642-1878 or visit www.masscosh.org.
About the Greater Boston Labor Council
The Greater Boston Labor Council is a federation of over 160 local unions and district councils. We represent unions in the Boston area, from right in the heart of Boston, Somerville, and Dorchester to as far North as Woburn and as far West as Lincoln and Weston.  Our affiliated unions represent workers across a wide economic spectrum. Teachers, transit workers, construction workers, police, firefighters, janitors and manufacturing workers are among the vast array of occupations held by members of the Greater Boston Labor Council.