The odd thing about death in the workplace is the selective nature of the news coverage. When some California workers die in the line of duty, they may be hailed as heroes.
When an electrician is killed or a roofer dies after a fall, they rarely receive a one-sentence statement in the paper or on the evening TV news. Yet their family mourns their death just as sincerely and they struggle to come to terms with the emotional and financial loss. No matter the circumstances, husbands and wives becomes widows and children lose their parent.
WORKPLACE DEATHS INCREASE
Worryingly, deaths of workers have become more common. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that collects these statistics, has just released the numbers for 2014, and they indicate that the most workers in 7 years died that year.
The final toll was 4,821 workers who left for their job in the morning and never returned home to their families. The math works out to almost 13 workers per day nationwide who die on the job.
The overwhelming majority, or 4,454, was men. The industry that suffered the most deaths was, unsurprisingly, construction. It was followed by transportation and warehousing and then agriculture.
What is sad and tragic about these deaths is that none of them had to happen. No matter what the particular reason, they are all likely due to reasons that were entirely foreseeable and preventable. It is likely that none of these deaths was novel or unlike any other.
While construction is the most dangerous and deadly classified industry, transportation, which likely means moving motor vehicles, are where most of these workers died. This, too, is unsurprising, because as a nation, we tolerate the deaths of more than 30,000 individuals every year in motor vehicle crashes, so it is reasonable to assume that some of those crashes also involve someone on the job
While their spouses will deal with the workers’ compensation system to determine what kind of death benefit they are entitled to, in a few cases, they may also contact an Orange County workers’ compensation lawyer and be able to sue someone other than their employer in a third-party personal injury lawsuit. The fact remains that there is a large hole left in their lives, both emotionally and economically.
In California, if a man dies and is married, his wife will be entitled to a death benefit of $250,000 or less, depending on her income. Consider that if he had he earned $50,000 a year that would make his death worth about five years of wages and that’s only true if his spouse earned less than $30,000 per year. If the man dies with no dependents or his spouse makes more than $30,000 per year the chances are that the family will receive nothing while the State of California receives the $250,000 benefit.
This is why it is important for all employers to actively foster a culture of safety for their business. From the proper training and safety equipment to constant vigilance by all supervisors at ensuring that safe workplace procedures are in place and enforced every day on every worksite and for every worker.
HALF FULL OR HALF EMPTY
While you may think that with more than 100 million workers, the deaths of 4,821 men and women is a “reasonable” number. The number represents 3.4 fatal accidents per 100,000 full-time employees.
But it also represents a wife or husband whose spouse will never come home and children who will never see their father or mother again. In that light, it does not seem reasonable at all.
If your spouse was one of these workplace fatalities, you should contact an Orange County wrongful death attorney to ensure that you and your family receive the compensation you need to deal with this tragedy.