West Virginia Workplace Fatalities Down 23 Percent

November 7, 2008

Workplace fatalities are declining in West Virginia, according to preliminary federal figures released Nov. 5.

The numbers show a nearly 23 percent decline in workplace deaths between 2006 and 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Sixty-one workers were killed on the job in 2007, compared with 79 deaths the previous year. All the workers killed in 2007 were male, the agency said.

Highway accidents were the top cause of on-the-job deaths, accounting for 25 percent of the workplace fatalities in the state in 2007, the agency said. Sixteen workers were killed in wrecks last year, up from 15 in 2006.

Other major causes of workplace fatalities included being struck by objects or equipment, falls, being caught or crushed in collapsing materials and contact with electricity.

The figures show mining, construction and government were the most dangerous sectors of the economy in West Virginia last year, accounting for 57 percent of workplace fatalities.

The report draws no conclusions about the decrease from 2006 to 2007. However, 2006 was a particularly deadly year for miners in the nation’s second-largest coal producing state, while the toll in 2007 was far lower.

Coal mining accidents accounted for 25 workplace deaths in 2006, compared with nine in 2007, according to the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training, which listed more deaths as mining related than the federal report. A 10th miner died at a stone quarry in 2007.

The 2006 death toll included the Sago Mine explosion, which killed 12 men, and a conveyer belt fire that claimed two lives. Both contributed to sweeping changes in federal and state mine safety regulations.

The following year included just one double-fatal in the state’s coal mines.

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