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Preventable deaths on the rise in North Carolina workplaces

The North Carolina Department of Labor, which tracks workplace deaths that fall under the U.S. Labor Departments investigatory authority, says that 48 fatalities occurred in the state in 2016 -- and that half were probably preventable.

Year after year, four types of injuries tend to stand out as the cause of most workplace fatalities, especially in the construction and manufacturing industries:

-- Falls

-- "Struck by objects" accidents

-- Caught-in or between incidents

-- Electrocutions

What's especially troubling to the Department of Labor is that investigators know that proper safety training and the correct use of personal protective equipment can prevent falls and stuck-by accidents, eliminating a lot of needless tragedies.

Despite all of the educational materials out there and attempts by the Department of Labor to enforce workplace safety measures, construction and manufacturing deaths in the state have risen, not dropped.

Employers, supervisors and individual employees all can work together to make the working environment safer, no matter the industry. Experts suggest that basic housekeeping is one of the most fundamental ways to prevent falls. Anything that could be tripped over should be picked up and moved out of walkways as quickly as possible. Safety measures like anti-slip coatings and anti-slip footwear also help.

Preventing falls to lower levels involves making sure that ladders are secure, step stools are placed on dry, level ground and scaffolding is properly erected and maintained. Safety harnesses should always be worn, even for quick trips up and down a level.

Simple measures like wearing hardhats when appropriate and making sure that building materials or stock items are stacked correctly can prevent "struck by" accidents. So can making sure that the operators of any heavy machinery are well-versed in the controls, and that they never work without a spotter on the ground to help make sure that people are at a clear distance.

The goal each year is to reduce the number of workplace injuries and fatalities, so seeing the numbers climb can be disheartening. It may be time for everyone to band together to try to bring down the number of unnecessary workplace accident in the coming year.

If you are the victim of a workplace accident, you can discuss your rights regarding workers' compensation and other possible methods of damage recovery with an experienced attorney.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "2 died on the job in Forsyth last year; More than half the state's workplace deaths likely preventable," Richard Craver, Jan. 30, 2017

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