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AFL-CIO Releases Its Annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect Report

David C. Dal Zin
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Each day in this country, an average of 275 workers die because of occupational illness and injuries. In Connecticut, there were 48 workplace deaths in 2018 alone.

View Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglectreport here:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, affecting more than 7.4. million Americans, with more than 210,000 deaths in the United States, the AFL-CIO released its annual Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect report this week.

In Connecticut, 48 fatalities and 37,200 occupational illnesses and injuries were reported in 2018 (latest data available). This is the highest number of workplace fatalities in the state since 2010.

During a video press conference to release the report, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka outlined the current health crisis as a product of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks, weakened regulations, and resource cuts to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"This report shows the tremendous neglect by the Trump administration, since day one in office, to ensure that working people are safe on the job," said Trumka. "For nearly four years, President Trump has downplayed the role of safety agencies tasked with protecting workers and let corporate profit, rather than science, influence the protections we need to keep us safe from this disastrous pandemic. Now hardworking families are paying the price. We all deserve the best protection available. It is time to change course. Our lives and the future of the country depend on it."

According to the 29th edition of the report released earlier this week, in 2018, 5,250 working people in the United States were killed on the job and an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases. Each and every day, on average, 275 U.S. workers die from hazardous working conditions. The job fatality rate remained the same as the previous year – 3.5 per 100,000 workers – indicating little progress on making workplaces safer in recent years.

In Connecticut, the fatality rate is marginally better – 2.8 per 100,000 workers – but not by much. What’s worse, Connecticut had a higher rate of workplace injuries and illnesses compared to the U.S. with a rate of 3.2 in the state and a national average of 2.8.

In a state with nearly 1.7 million employees and over 120,000 work establishments, there are only 21 OSHA inspectors. It would take inspectors in Connecticut 141 years to inspect each workplace just once. On top of that, the median penalty assessed per OSHA fatality investigation in FY 2019 was less than $4,000.

"The Death on the Job report confirms that the safety and wellbeing of Connecticut’s workers are not being taken seriously enough," said Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano. "While no amount of money can ever replace the value of a lost human life, the fact that corporate billionaires are being fined less than $4,000 for the fatality of a worker is abysmal. Sadly, I expect the numbers to increase next year as we take into account the lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Had OSHA implemented an Emergency Temporary Workplace Standard at the beginning of this crisis, that would not be the case. We cannot afford to lose another life."

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The Connecticut AFL-CIO is a federation of hundreds of local unions representing more than 220,000 active union members in the private sector, public sector, and building trades. Our members live and work in every city and town in our state.

Watch the video of the press call on the AFL-CIO Facebook page.