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Texas Ranks Number One in the Nation For Workplace Deaths

Across the nation, fatal accidents in the workplace are on the decline, but that pattern has not carried over in the state of Texas. A recent article in the Dallas News noted that workplace deaths remain “stubbornly high in Texas.”

According to statistics from the Department of Labor in 2010, just over 4,500 people died due to injuries in the workplace. The most of those workplace deaths occurred in – yes, you guessed it – Texas. Texas topped the list with 461 fatal workplace accidents. The next closest state, California, came in at 302 deaths. That is a considerable gap.

So what makes Texas so dangerous to workers?

Well, there are most likely a number of contributing factors. First, national statistics reveal that highway deaths are the number one cause of on-the-job deaths. Texas has one of the largest highway systems in the nation; more roadways, more deaths.

Second, Texas also has some of the largest construction and oil drilling industries in the nation. Given that on-the-job injury rates tend to be higher in both the oil and gas industry and for construction workers, it is not surprising that Texas’s robust employment in those sectors would also lead to more fatal workplace accidents.

But aside from the somewhat inherent risks found in Texas, many people believe that the largest reason for the high rate of death is the state’s rather lax workplace regulations. The Dallas News pointed out a recent incident where two men were killed while they were dismantling a crane. The investigation revealed that in Texas there are few training requirements for crane operators.

The workers’ compensation division of the Texas Department of Insurance, which is the state agency responsible for worker safety, does not necessarily agree with this position. A representative from the department noted that “it’s unfair to cast Texas as a dangerous state without looking at per-capita injury rates in individual industries.”

And the state has, arguably, been doing it what can to help reduce fatal workplace accidents. Just five years ago – after Texas recorded its largest number of worker deaths in a year – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration established its largest education center in the nation at UT at Arlington. Since then, more than 4,000 workers and supervisors have been trained on workplace safety.

But many people wonder whether efforts like these are enough. Wouldn’t stronger laws and regulations overseeing these inherently dangerous industries prove as a stronger deterrent and better safeguard?

Source: The Dallas Morning News, “As workplace deaths fall nationally, they remain stubbornly high in Texas,” 9/15/12.

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