Wisconsin Workplace Fatalities Rise 28 percent

By M.L. JOHNSON | December 13, 2013

The number of Wisconsin workers killed on the job increased 28 percent last year, in part because of an increase in workplace shootings, according to federal statistics released Wednesday.

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed 114 fatal work injuries in 2012 p 25 more than the year before.

Sixteen people were shot and killed by someone else while working last year, compared with two in 2011. Five others shot and killed themselves, an increase of two from the previous year.

The BLS report does not identify those killed at work, but several workplace shootings were widely reported in 2012. They included a white supremacist’s August rampage at a Milwaukee-area Sikh temple where three priests, the temple president and a cook were killed, along with a worshipper. The BLS report covers paid employees as well as volunteers with duties similar to an employee, such as the cook.

Three employees at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield were killed in October 2012 by one worker’s estranged husband. A Milwaukee police officer was fatally shot by her husband while on patrol on Christmas Eve.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin implemented a number of safety precautions following its tragedy. An armed security guard now patrols the entrance, security cameras have been installed inside and outside the building, the lighting in the parking lot has been improved and every window was upgraded to bulletproof glass.

Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was the temple president, said the security measures helped eased worshippers’ concerns. A few members also acquired concealed-carry licenses and now carry guns at the temple, he said, and others make more effort to welcome strangers and find out why they’ve come.

“With time passing, people have become a lot less paranoid about being there. They don’t think about (the shooting) as much,” Kaleka said. “I don’t think it’ll ever go back to the way it was, but it’s still improving.”

Even so, temple officials don’t want people to forget what happened. When they repaired the bullet holes they left one prominent hole untouched as a memorial to the victims.

“I don’t want my father to be forgotten,” Kaleka said. “I do want people to get over it and get on with their lives, but I don’t want people to forget completely.”

Nationally, 4,383 workers were killed on the job last year, compared with 4,693 in 2011. Last year, 375 people were killed in shootings while on the job, about the same as in 2011. Two of the 2012 incidents involved five or more victims.

The greatest risk to Wisconsin workers comes from transportation incidents, which include car accidents, rollovers and other collisions. Thirty-seven people died that way last year, including 12 in vehicles that hit other cars and trucks and six whose vehicles struck animals or other objects. Seven died when their vehicle jack-knifed or rolled.

Equipment and other objects were the second-leading cause of death. Twenty-six people died after being struck by or caught in equipment or hit by another object.

Agriculture remained the state’s most deadly occupation, accounting for 26 deaths last year compared with 21 the year before.

Most of those killed at work were men. Thirty-seven percent worked for themselves.

(Associated Press writer Dinesh Ramde contributed to this report.)

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