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Which U.S. state is the most dangerous for workers?

Although the U.S. has made strides in workplace safety over recent decades, thousands of people still lose their lives in workplace accidents every year. In fact, an average of 150 people died due to workplace injuries or job-related diseases every single day. Many of these injuries and fatalities are preventable.

Last month, the AFL-CIO released its annual workplace injury study and it found that the most dangerous state for workers is North Dakota, which has a fatality rate five times higher than the national average. And, the state seems to be getting worse and worse when it comes to preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. In 2007, seven deaths were recorded per 100,000 workers, and by 2012 this jumped to almost 18. The year 2012 is the latest year for which workplace injury and illness data is available.

The union center's report suggests that the state's booming oil and gas industry may be to blame. As this industry has grown, not only in North Dakota but also in other states, many occupational safety and health issues have surfaced. Of course, we are not strangers to such problems in the energy industry here in West Virginia; coal mining continues to remain one of the most dangerous occupations in the country.

In fact, West Virginia has tied for the rank of the second deadliest state for workers; it shares this title with Wyoming, Alaska and Montana.

The AFL-CIO report calls for the strengthening of the Mine Safety and Health Act in order to give the government more power to close dangerous mines and issue tougher penalties against repeat safety violators.

This report is a reminder that West Virginia coal miners and their families need to be aware of their rights. If you suffer a workplace injury or an occupational disease, you are entitled to compensation. The same is true if you lose a loved one to a workplace accident. It is important to seek legal counsel if you find yourself facing these challenges. 

Source: AFL-CIO, "Todays Death Toll: 150 Workers," Mike Hall, May 8, 2014

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