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AFL-CIO: workplace fatalities deserve more attention

The AFL-CIO has published a report called, "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect," as part of its effort to get employers and employees in South Carolina and across the U.S. thinking once again about workplace fatalities. In 2017, there were 5,147 workplace fatalities: less than the 5,190 reported in 2016 but more than the 4,836 reported in 2015.

That's not all. Occupational illnesses lead to an estimated 95,000 deaths each year in the U.S., which comes to about 275 deaths every day. Heat stress is one example of a workplace hazard. Between 1992 and 2017, it led to 815 worker deaths and over 70,000 injuries, according to Public Citizen.

The leading causes of on-the-job fatalities are transportation accidents; slips, trips and falls; and workplace violence. 2017 saw 2,077 transportation-related worker deaths, 887 deaths from the second factor and 807 deaths from the third. Workplace violence, including assault from co-workers and from customers, was responsible for almost 29,000 injuries in the private industry that led to time off work.

Companies with unsafe practices are often to blame. The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health recently put out a report of the "Dirty Dozen," listing 12 companies (including some of the most profitable in the world) that expose workers to the danger of injuries, harassment and discrimination.

Employers who do have safe practices may be able to reduce injuries, but they must be prepared for the occasional workers' compensation claim. Injured workers may want a lawyer to assist with the filling out of the paperwork and with the mounting of an appeal if the employer denies payment. There are also two ways to settle a claim: a Form 16A settlement or a "clincher" agreement. A lawyer might discuss the pros and cons of each.

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