Published: May 1, 2014

Early numbers show decrease in workplace deaths in 2013

Contact(s): Sarina Gleason Media Communications office: (517) 355-9742, Kenneth Rosenman Occupational and Environmental Medicine office: (517) 353-1846

Preliminary figures put the number of workplace deaths in Michigan in 2013 at 121, currently down from 135 confirmed deaths in 2012, according to a report compiled annually from Michigan State University.

Yet it’s anticipated that the number will rise once all the data is assessed.

“We know these numbers will increase, we just don’t know how much yet until all the final figures come in,” said Kenneth Rosenman, who serves as the director of MSU's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

According to the Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program, or MIFACE, the transportation industry had the highest number of deaths at 24, while the construction industry had the second most at 22, followed by agriculture with 11.

The program – administered by the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, part of the College of Human Medicine – investigates work-related deaths and seeks to identify ways to prevent them.

"The goal should always be to see these numbers decline; one death is too many," Rosenman said. "Workplace deaths are almost always avoidable, and there is no reason we shouldn't be seeing a continued decrease in deaths."

The report reveals that motor vehicles caused the most deaths at 29, followed by 18 falls, 15 homicides and another 15 struck by an object. Suicides came in fifth at 13. Guns were involved in 93 percent of the workplace homicides.

"Surveillance is a basic premise of public health activity," said Rosenman.

"Understanding how many people are dying and under what circumstances is the first step to developing a response to prevent these tragedies.“

There also has been increasing concern about the safety of temporary workers in the workplace. Since 2001, 44 temporary workers have died while on the job in Michigan.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced an initiative to assist temporary staffing agencies and host employers to further protect temporary employees from workplace hazards.

Rosenman said his division has developed resources for staffing and host facilities to ensure the safety of temporary employees.

The 2013 MIFACE data is being released in conjunction with Workers’ Memorial Day, an event where workers and public health professionals across the country pay tribute to those killed by work-related trauma – about 5,000 each year nationwide. Another 60,000 U.S. workers are estimated to die each year from cancer, lung disease and other illnesses from work-related exposures.

Workers’ Memorial Day remembrances were held nationwide, including Lansing and Detroit, on April 28.

MIFACE is a research project of MSU funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MSU works closely with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration on the project.

Kenneth Rosenman, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in MSU's College of Human Medicine, studies work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths to help the state of Michigan prevent future incidents. Photo by G.L. Kohuth.

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