April 2014

News Briefs

Oregon announces 2013 workplace deaths

Twenty-nine people covered by the Oregon workers' compensation system died on the job during 2013. It's a slight decrease from 2012's figure of 30 deaths and continues a downward trend seen 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 2011, there were 28 deaths and, in 2009, 31 people died on the job.

Construction saw the largest concentration of deaths in 2013, with seven workers killed in that industry. Logging resulted in six deaths. The construction industry also accounted for a significant number of deaths in 2012 (five total), illustrating the high hazard nature of the work.

"Each workplace death illustrates the need to continue our commitment to preventing these tragedies," said Patrick Allen, director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). "Although workplace safety in Oregon has improved significantly in recent decades, there is still much we can do to ensure all of our workers can come home to their families at the end of the day."

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.

"While this report tends to confirm an overall downward trend in Oregon worker deaths, it also confirms what we know all too well," said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA, a division of DCBS. "Too many workers die on the job in Oregon and those deaths can be prevented."

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.

The link to the full DCBS fatality report can be found here.   ▉

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Oregon OSHA fines WildCat Haven for safety violations following worker's death

Oregon OSHA has fined WildCat Haven $5,600 for safety and health violations after an animal keeper was attacked and killed at the Sherwood sanctuary. The sanctuary violated its two-person safety procedure and cage latches did not fully secure dangerous cougars, Oregon OSHA found.

"Sadly, as is so often the case, this workplace tragedy may have been prevented if the employer had followed and enforced its own guidelines when employees entered the cougar enclosures," said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator.

Renee Radziwon Chapman was attempting to clean one of the cages at the sanctuary when one or more cougars attacked her on Nov. 9, 2013. The victim was working alone at the facility.

Oregon OSHA cited WildCat Haven for two serious violations, each with a penalty of $2,800. The investigation found the sanctuary violated its two-person safety procedure by allowing keepers to work alone on a frequent basis.

The second violation identified an inadequate latch design on the cougar cages. If the locks were not fully closed, they could inadvertently pop open. In order to fully secure the latch, keepers were required to enter the cage and attach a carabiner onto the latch's lock fitting. The enclosure itself was also poorly designed with no separate entry door. As a result, cougars in two separate chambers needed to be secured in order to safely enter.   ▉

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Blue Star award nominations being accepted

Nominations are being accepted for the Oregon SHARP Alliance Blue Star award, which recognizes individuals for their outstanding dedication and leadership to workplace safety and health in Oregon. The award is presented in June at the Blue Mountain Safety and Health Conference and the recipient does not have to be a member of the Oregon SHARP Alliance.

Nominations for the award must be submitted by April 30, 2014, and applications are available at  ▉

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Finalists named in young worker safety video contest

Stories told through rap, humor, and other creative moviemaking are among the top videos in the Oregon Young Employee Safety Coalition (O[yes]) video contest. The top seven finalists are now posted on YouTube:

The finalists are:

  •  "Flashbacks" – St. Helens High School
  •  "The Work Safe Rap"– South Salem High School
  •  "Wisdom" – South Salem High School
  •  "The Inspector" – Salem Academy
  •  "Safe or Not Safe" – Oregon School for the Deaf, Salem
  •  "Safety is the Last Thing on my Mind"
    – Southridge High School, Beaverton
  •  "Work Safe" – North Bend High School

The top three entries will take home cash prizes ranging from $300 to $500 and will earn a matching amount for their school. O[yes] hosts this annual contest, which is sponsored by Oregon OSHA, SAIF Corporation, local Oregon chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers, the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health & Science University, the SHARP Alliance, Liberty Mutual, the Central Oregon Safety and Health Association, the SafeBuild Alliance, Oregon Health Authority, Hoffman Construction, and the Portland Daily Journal of Commerce.

The contest, open to all high school students in Oregon, is designed to increase awareness about safety on the job for young people with the theme "Speak up. Work safe." and the tagline "Work shouldn't cost you your future." Students were tasked with creating a 90-second video based on the concept of speaking up about hazards at work. The videos were judged on creativity, originality, youth appeal, production quality, and message.

Contest winners will be unveiled at a Saturday, April 26, 2014, screening event at Northern Lights Theatre in Salem starting at noon. For contest information, go to  ▉

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Oregon OSHA, other agency leaders honored as part of SAIF Corporation's 100 Faces of Change' exhibit

Oregon OSHA will be among the honorees of SAIF Corporation's "100 Faces of Change" exhibit, open now at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. The interactive exhibit includes 100 stories of those who have influenced or benefitted from Oregon's workers' compensation system.

Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood, Jennifer Flood, the Ombudsman for Injured Workers; and Austin Coburn, the 2013 winner of the statewide young worker safety video contest; will also be featured.

The State Industrial Accident Commission (SIAC), the precursor of SAIF Corporation, opened its doors in 1914. That event made official the Workmen's Compensation Act, proposed by Gov. Oswald West and passed by Oregon voters in 1913. The exhibit not only showcases individual stories and photos, but also includes photos and artifacts from Oregon industries that played a part in making workplaces safer.

The exhibit runs through June 22, 2014, at the Oregon Historical Society and stories will later be published on July 1, 2014, at  ▉

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