The number of workers killed while on the job in New Jersey and around the country increased by a worrying 7 percent in 2016, according to figures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The federal agency reports that workplace accidents claimed 5,190 lives in 2016, which is the highest occupational death toll since 5,214 workers were killed in 2008. Many of these deaths occurred in growing and lightly regulated sectors like food service and health care. Accidents and injuries remained steady or actually fell in industries that are closely scrutinized by federal safety agencies like OSHA.

About one in four of the American workers killed in 2016 was employed in the transportation sector, but the increasing prevalence of drugs in the workplace is particularly concerning for government regulators and work safety advocates. Overdose deaths among full-time workers increased by almost a third in 2016 and have risen by at least 25 percent each year since 2012.

While OSHA responded to the workplace fatality figures by vowing to cooperate with other federal agencies and do more to protect workers in the year ahead, labor advocates questioned their ability to do so. They pointed out that it would take OSHA’s current roster of less than 800 federal inspectors 159 years to inspect every workplace in the United States.

In addition to providing assistance to workers who have been injured or become sick, the New Jersey workers’ compensation program offers financial benefits to the defendant family members of those who have lost their lives in workplace accidents. However, the claims process can be especially difficult for grieving families, and even minor paperwork errors can cause lengthy delays. Attorneys with experience in this area may help complete workers’ compensation applications and ensure that families claim all of the benefits they are entitled to.