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April 27, 2015

Work-related deaths down; homicides may be on the rise

Early figures from an annual Michigan State University report indicate that the number of workplace deaths in Michigan has decreased, but work-related homicides may be rising.

An estimated 125 workers died while on the job in 2014, down from 134 confirmed deaths in 2013, yet homicide figures for this year already indicate that this number may go up compared to last year.

“Even though we’ve seen a continued decline in on-the-job deaths overall, which is good, we’ve noticed that homicides within the workplace could be increasing with eight homicides already reported for 2015,” said Kenneth Rosenman, who serves as the director of MSU's Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Work-related homicides increased from 2009-12, peaking at 28 in 2012. In both 2013 and 2014, the number dropped to 16, but the recent 2015 figure may be a strong indicator that this number could rise again. Fifty-two percent of all the homicides reported last year were in the retail trade industry, which is comprised of convenience and party stores, gas stations, as well as drug and jewelry stores.

“There are several recommendations that employers can consider to reduce the risk of on-the-job homicides and help prevent them from happening or increasing,” Rosenman said. “One main suggestion is to perform risk assessments each year that identify factors that could contribute to a homicide and develop policies around these possible causes.”

Some of these contributing factors may involve the exchange of money with the public, working alone or in small numbers, late-night or early-morning shifts, working in high-crime areas, and scenarios involving inadequate indoor and outdoor lighting.

The Michigan Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program, or MIFACE, currently puts 2014 workplace homicides as the fourth leading cause of death across multiple industries, with nearly 70 percent of these cases involving guns. Motor vehicle accidents caused the most deaths at 27, while workers killed by falling objects or falling from ladders, roofs, etc., came in second and third, respectively.

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

The report also indicated that the transportation industry continued to have the highest overall number of deaths at 19, while the construction industry had the second most at 15, followed by agriculture with 11.

The MIFACE data is being released as the nation gets ready to recognize Workers’ Memorial Day on Tuesday. 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.

A remembrance will be held at the Philip A. Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit at noon on Tuesday, among other memorial events scheduled throughout the state.

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.


By: Sarina Gleason

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