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Advocating for worker safety even in dangerous industries

Although the stated mission of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration is to assure safe and healthful workplace conditions for all workers throughout the country, the fact remains that some jobs may present more frequent risks of hazardous conditions than others.

In fact, the federal government's fact-finding agency, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, has compiled data about the five occupations that incur the highest workplace fatalities. Some of the industries that made that ranking may be expected, such as construction workers. Others, however, may come as a surprise.

For example, commercial trucking was the industry with the highest injury rate. In a recent reporting year, there were 741 fatalities involving tractor-trailer truck drivers, light truck and driver sales workers. The non-fatal injury rate among commercial truckers is also high, averaging about 65,000 in 2012.

The remaining industries that made the top five were farming, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and fishermen. Are there certain risks that are inherent to those industries, or is more OSHA regulation needed? Unfortunately, an attorney who focuses on workers’ compensation knows that the goals of maximizing profits and ensuring worker safety can sometimes be at cross-purposes.

In the case of truckers, for example, the federal government recently passed fatigue regulations that essentially limit the maximum hours in a trucker’s workweek, as well as imposing certain required rest periods. However, many industry representatives have pushed back against those 2013 regulations, calling for their repeal. That resistance may explain why many workers may be afraid to come forward and report potentially dangerous workplace conditions, or even maximize available recoveries after an on-the-job accident. In both instances, an attorney can provide valuable advice.

Source: Wall St. Cheat Sheet, “Price of Risk: How Well Do the 5 Most Dangerous Jobs Pay?” Erika Rawes, June 28, 2014

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