Thirty people covered by the Oregon workers' compensation system died on the job during 2012, according to figures released by the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). It's a slight increase from 2011 but remains significantly lower than counts of past decades.
The year 2010 marked the state's all-time low of 17 deaths. That figure was likely tied, in part, to the economic downturn. In 2011, there were 28 deaths and, in 2009, 31 people died on the job.
On-the-job injuries have been on the decline in recent decades. In the 1990s, there was an average of 55 workplace deaths per year. In the 1980s, the average was 81 deaths. The statewide rate of reported workplace injuries and illnesses has also decreased more than 50 percent since the late 1980s. Oregon started tracking workplace deaths in 1943.
"As the economy continues to recover and more jobs are added, we must remain committed to workplace safety and health," said Patrick Allen, DCBS director. "Sadly, as the numbers show, not every Oregonian comes home to their family after a day at work. We must continue to work hard to change that."
Trucking/transportation and construction saw the largest concentration of deaths in 2012, with five each. That trend is consistent with past figures illustrating the high-risk nature of those sectors. No construction deaths occurred in 2010, which may relate to job losses that year, while three deaths were reported in 2011 as the economy improved.
"While the numbers are still at historically low levels, we can't forget that each death represents an individual whose life was cut short," said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA. "These tragedies can be prevented by putting a greater focus on eliminating hazards in the workplace."
Oregon OSHA offers educational workshops, consultation services, training videos, and website information to help Oregon employers create or improve their safety and health programs.
DCBS compiles fatality statistics from records of death claim benefits paid by Oregon workers' compensation insurers during the calendar year. The data reported may exclude workplace fatalities involving self-employed individuals, city of Portland police and fire employees, federal employees, and incidents occurring in Oregon to individuals with out-of-state employers. These workers are either not subject to Oregon workers' compensation coverage requirements or are covered by other compensation systems.
Deaths that occur during a prior calendar year may appear in the compensable fatality count for a later year because of the time required to process a claim. Here is the full DCBS fatality report.
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