Skip to main content

New Report Names NC the 23rd Most Dangerous Place for Workers

Jeremy Sprinkle
Social share icons

View Report here:

According to a new report released last week by the AFL-CIO, North Carolina had the 23rd highest rate of workplace deaths in 2017. This analysis, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that 183 North Carolina workers lost their lives due to on-the-job injuries, resulting in 3.9 deaths per hundred thousand workers.

Nationally, workplace violence is now the second-leading cause of workplace death, accounting for 807 workplace deaths, including 458 homicides. For the 3rd year in a row, workplace violence injuries increased, with nearly 29,000 workers suffering serious violence-related injuries due to assault on the job. Yet, even as violence increases in the workplace, the Trump administration has sidelined developing and issuing an OSHA workplace violence standard.

“This year’s report is yet another reminder of the dangers facing working people in North Carolina every single day,” said MaryBe McMillan, president of the NC State AFL-CIO. “North Carolina deserve better. We have a right to a safe workplace and a voice on the job. What’s more, we deserve leaders in Raleigh and Washington who will stand up for those rights. It’s time for change, and working people are joining together to secure the economic rights and dignity that we’ve earned.”

Nationally, 5,147 American workers died on the job in 2017, a small decrease from  deaths the previous year. Another estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases, meaning approximately 275 workers died each day from preventable, hazardous workplace conditions. Overall, the national job fatality rate was 3.5 per 100,000, workers down slightly from 3.6 in 2016.

The report, titled “Death on the Job. The Toll of Neglect” marks the 28th year the AFL-CIO has produced its findings on the state of safety and health protections for workers within the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in Alaska (10.2 per 100,000 workers), North Dakota (10.1), Wyoming (7.7), West Virginia (7.4) and South Dakota (7.3).

Other report highlights show that Latino workers continue to be at increased risk of job death, and that the number of Latino worker deaths increased in 2017 to 903 from 879. Deaths among older workers also increased; workers 65 or older have nearly three times the risk of dying on the job as workers overall. Construction, transportation and agriculture industries remain among the most dangerous. In 2017, 917  construction workers were killed—the highest total of any sector. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting was the most dangerous industry sector, with a fatality rate of 23.0 per 100,000 workers.

Workers' Memorial Day service held in Raleigh

Local workers, labor and faith leaders, and family members gathered Friday morning on the grounds of the Old State Capitol in Raleigh for an annual interfaith Workers’ Memorial Day service to ring a bell 183 times in remembrance of the 183 people in North Carolina known to have died on the job in 2017 — 9 more than the year before — and called on the N.C. Department of Labor to do more to prevent workplace fatalities.

Read coverage of the 2019 Workers' Memorial Day service in Raleigh.

After the bell ringing, participants at the service, many carrying photos and signs listing the known names of those who died in 2017, took part in a memorial procession from the Old State Capitol to the offices of the NC Department of Labor, where they laid 183 flowers on Commissioner Berry's doorstep.

Speakers at the service included Rev. Jennifer Copeland, NC Council of Churches; Brother James Munir Perry, Muslims for Social Justice; Bertha Bradley, a Wendy's manager and member of Raise Up for $15 and a Union; and President MaryBe McMillan, NC State AFL-CIO.

Supporting organizations included the NC Justice Center, Student Action with Farmworkers, Progress North Carolina, NC Alliance for Retired Americans, NC A. Philip Randolph Institute, Working America, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and others.

Workers’ Memorial Day is an international day of remembrance for all those who have died while working for a better life. There were 183 such people in 2017, the most recent year for which the full count has been tallied — 9 more fatalities than in 2016. Yet NCDOL Commissioner Cherie Berry employs fewer workplace safety inspectors than 10 years ago, and she has never attended this memorial service and declined to attend or send a representative this year or last year despite being personally invited by family members and faith leaders at the conclusion of the memorial services in both 2016 and 2017. Ms. Berry can and must DO MORE to protect the lives and health of working people on the job — including hiring more inspectors and showing respect to workplace fatality victims and their surviving loved ones.

Charlotte Worker Memorial

The Southern Piedmont CLC joined with community organizations such as Comunidad Colectiva and local faith communities to commemorate International Workers' Memorial Day.

The event took place at United Methodist Church on South Tryon where local labor leaders discussed the continued struggles to ensure safer jobs and that tragedies such as the one of Juventino Mata-Hernandez don't happen again.

Last year, Juventino fell 19 stories from the Legacy Union construction building. The general contractor Gilbane was cited for four safety violations following an OSHA investigation.

Juventino's uncle Mauricio joined the service to share thanks from the family for organizers in the community for helping keep the company accountable.