Thirty-one people covered by the Oregon workers' compensation system died on the job during 2014, according to the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). It's up slightly from 2013's figure of 30 deaths but continues to be consistent with fatality counts in recent years.
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 2012, there were 30 deaths and, in 2011, 28 people died on the job.
State and local government saw the largest concentration of deaths in 2014, with five workers killed in that industry. The agriculture sector, which includes logging operations, had four deaths – the same as transportation and warehousing.
"Although Oregon workplaces are safer today than in previous decades, there are still far too many preventable tragedies each year," said Patrick Allen, director of DCBS. "We must continue our commitment to eliminating hazards in the workplace so that all Oregon workers can come home safely at the end of the day."
Workplace fatalities are down significantly compared to previous 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.
"When we discuss the fatalities each year, it is a sobering reminder our past success can become, in some measure, a challenge to our future achievements," said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. "We have pushed the numbers down over the past decades. But we will not push them still lower unless we can persuade each other – and ourselves – that they can and must continue to go lower."
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 excludes workplace deaths involving selfemployed 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. The fatality count for 2013 changed from 29 to 30 due to a change in status discovered after the reference year had closed.
Oregon OSHA has fined Fleetwood Homes Inc. $75,800 for five violations, including one willful violation. The citation was the result of an Aug. 29, 2014, complaint inspection at the company's Woodburn plant.
The investigation found managers at the mobile home manufacturer were aware of employee exposures to falls but did not provide protection, despite concerns brought forward to managers by employees and by Oregon OSHA. The company manufactures a mobile home model with fall exposures 13 feet from the ground. Roofers had to climb over the guardrails of scaffolding onto the roof of the mobile home with no tie-off points to connect a fall protection harness. Employees brought up the issue three times with management in 2014 before a complaint was made to Oregon OSHA.
"Year after year, falls are one of the major sources of serious injury and death in Oregon," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "There is no good reason to disregard the need to protect workers from such risks. Yet, this employer consciously ignored fall protection rules that are designed to prevent injuries or deaths."
Oregon OSHA cited the business $70,000 – the legal maximum – for the willful violation. Even after Oregon OSHA itself brought the issue to management's attention and management acknowledged the need to provide fall protection, work continued without such protection. A willful violation exists when an employer intentionally or knowingly allows a violation to occur.
The following serious violations were also found during the inspection:
High school students across the state created videos that are full of drama, humor, and interesting characters to increase awareness about workplace safety with the message, "Speak up. Work safe." The Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition (O[yes]) sponsors the annual video contest to engage teen workers, who are twice as likely to be injured on the job, according to federal studies.
The top 11 finalists are now posted on YouTube for viewing
"Gone Mobile" – South Salem High School
"Horrible Bosses" – St. Helens High School
"Lorenzo's Blog" – South Salem High School
"Shop Safety of Horror" – Benson Polytechnic High School
"The Cutting Edge" – Sunset High School
"Think Safety – It Couldn't Hurt" – Benson Polytechnic High School
"This is My Scar" – South Salem High School
"This is You"– Benson Polytechnic High School
"Training Day" – St. Helens High School
"Work Safety for Teens" – La Pine High School
"Workplace Safety" – South Wasco County High School ▉
Oregon OSHA has fined Portland Specialty Baking LLC $28,125 for a grouped willful violation after a worker's hand was crushed in a dough chunker machine. Although treated as a single violation for penalty purposes, a grouped violation indicates that the employer conduct being cited violates more than one code. The citation was the result of an inspection on Oct. 7, 2014, at the Portland commercial bakery.
The worker was operating a machine that cuts dough into smaller pieces when the accident occurred. When dough became jammed in the machine, the worker placed a piece of dough over the sensor, lifted the machine guard, and reached into the running machine.
The Oregon OSHA investigation found the bakery had a history of similar injuries. On July 3, 2014, a worker received a serious laceration to his middle finger (and lost a fingernail) when he reached into the bagel dough divider to remove dough trimmings. On July 16, 2014, another employee suffered lacerations and a fractured hand after reaching into the same machine to remove trimmings. In 2008, an employee also suffered a crushed hand when reaching into the dough chunker machine.
"Despite the pattern of injuries, this employer continued to ignore the rules that could prevent them, with what certainly was a careless disregard for worker safety," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "It might even be described as reckless."
Oregon OSHA cited the bakery for not providing adequate training to workers, many of whom were not native English speakers. Employee interviews revealed workers did not understand how to safely operate the machinery and were bypassing machine guarding. A willful violation exists when an employer intentionally or knowingly allows a violation to occur. ▉
From PPE to carrying loads and towing, Oregon OSHA launched an online ATV training that covers best practices for adult agriculture workers.
The training features videos and animation and was created in partnership with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon State University extension services, and ATV safety experts.
In the past 10 years, four workers in Oregon were killed in ATV accidents and seven workers were hospitalized due to injuries sustained while riding an ATV.
"ATVs have become a necessary tool for many in agriculture and require skill, concentration, and physical strength to operate," said Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood. "That also makes ATVs powerful and dangerous.
This training is designed to help workers ride smart and stay safe." The training also covers safe riding techniques for hills, water, curves, and roads, along with policies that all ATV riders and their supervisors should know and follow. It is available here. ▉
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For general information, technical answers, or information about Oregon OSHA services, please call 503-378-3272 or toll-free within Oregon, 800-922-2689.