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Mecklenburg County had most workplace deaths in state in 2014

Almost every day the news includes stories about the workforce such as unemployment numbers and attempts to raise the minimum wage. Some of these stories may include the number of workers who are injured and even die due to workplace conditions. Unfortunately, Mecklenburg County is at the top of the list of one tragic statistic: it leads North Carolina as the county with the most work-related deaths in 2014.

Five workers lost their lives in Mecklenburg County last year. Across the state, the number of work-related deaths almost doubled from the statistics recorded for 2013 when there were 23 reported deaths, the lowest number in nine years. In 2014, more than 40 deaths were reported.

In examining the data, the North Carolina Department of Labor found several important facts that may help lower the numbers in future years, especially in the construction industry where deaths increased from seven in 2013 to 19 in 2014.

One important piece of data shows that many construction accidents occur within three months of the worker's start date. At least one workplace accident even occurred on the first day of work. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry says that this is a red flag for the construction industry that inadequate training may be an issue.

Other statistics show that the average age of the deceased workers was 43 years old and that all but one of the 44 deaths was male.

Regardless of age, gender and the reason for the death, work-related deaths are often preventable. Many of these tragedies occur due to an employer's shortcomings, such as cutting corners on safety precautions or, as mentioned, inadequate training. Coworkers may also bear some of the blame, either through their own careless actions or even through dangerous habits such as using drugs or alcohol in the workplace.

As the Labor Commissioner points out, each of the workers who died is someone's son or daughter, and many are parents themselves or grandparents and have spouses. Those loved ones who are left behind may have a claim for wrongful death against the employer which, while not compensating for the loss of the loved one, may replace that person’s income and contribution to his or her family.

An attorney who is familiar with workers’ compensation benefits and the process require to recover these benefits can be helpful while family members mourn the loss of their loved one.

Source: Gaston Gazette, "Work-related fatalities up in county, state for 2014," Kevin Ellis, Jan. 25, 2015

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