The AFL-CIO, the largest union federation in the U.S., this week released its annual report on worker deaths. The report found that 4,693 U.S. workers died while on the job in 2011, and that an estimated 50,000 die each year from "occupational diseases."
The report breaks down the demographics of the latest worker death data available. Latino workers were found to have the highest workplace fatality rates, with a rate 14% higher than other workers. North Dakota was also found to be the most dangerous state, with a fatality rate of 12.4 per 100,000 workers.
“In 2013, it is unacceptable that so many hardworking men and women continue to die on the job,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President. “No one should have to sacrifice his or her life or health and safety in order to earn a decent living. Yet, elected leaders, business groups and employers have failed to provide adequate health and safety protections for working families. At the same time, too many politicians and business leaders are actively working to dismantle working people’s right to collectively bargain on the job and speak out against unsafe, unjust working conditions. This is a disgrace to all those who have died. America’s workers deserve better.”
The AFL-CIO's statement on the report mentioned the recent West Texas fertilizer plant explosion as an example of how, it says, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is underfunded and understaffed. The organization also stated that it believes OSHA penalties are "too low to be taken seriously."