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August 25, 2005
Contact: Communications Office
(919) 733-0363 or (919) 733-2355

Work Fatalities in State Continue at Low Levels

RALEIGH-Figures released Thursday by the N.C. Department of Labor show that work fatalities in North Carolina totaled 183 in 2004, the fourth-lowest total seen in the state since labor officials started keeping detailed records.

Transportation-related incidents such as fatal highway accidents once again represented the major bloc of fatalities with 78 deaths out of 183 occurring on North Carolina roads.

"Although we're encouraged by the huge improvement in work safety in recent years, there's still more to be done," state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. "I want to see us continue to expand our free consultative services and our safety training."

The labor department saw a major decline in fatalities in 2001, Berry's first year as labor commissioner. The total dropped to 203 from a previous high of 234 the year before. In 2002, the total dropped to 169, the record low for fatalities since recordkeeping began under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act. Last year, the total of 182 was the state's third-lowest total.

Compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state labor department, the 2004 figures show that 54 workers died in construction accidents. Another 20 employees died in manufacturing.

A total of 23 employees lost their lives to workplace violence. Six committed suicide and 17 were murdered.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting accounted for 17 deaths.

The labor department in recent years has sponsored throughout the state a series of free training seminars for construction workers. Labor inspectors have focused on areas that are the leading causes of construction deaths. These accidents include fatalities from falls, electrocutions, trenching and contact with heavy equipment.

Labor officials also are encouraging unique partnership agreements that allow safety inspectors free access to work sites to help spot dangers before accidents happen.

"We're trying new approaches," said Allen McNeely, the department's occupational safety and health director. "We've expanded our consultative services and our training, all free of charge. We're open to suggestions from employers and employees, and we've gotten a lot of help from different groups throughout the state."

Of the 183 fatalities, 128 were white, 26 were black and 26 were Hispanic. Of these, 175 were men and 8 were women.

Raw statistical figures are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other information concerning specific accidents is provided from information gathered during N.C. Department of Labor investigations.

The following counties had three or more fatalities:
Wake - 20
Forsyth, Mecklenburg - 8
Cumberland, Guilford - 7
Davidson, Pitt - 6
Buncombe, Catawba, Johnston - 5
Durham, Iredell, Onslow, Orange, Union - 4
New Hanover, Robeson - 3



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