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AFL-CIO raises awareness of workplace illness, death rates

Workers in New Jersey and across the U.S. are dying and being injured at alarming rates. The AFL-CIO published its annual report on workplace fatalities, entitled "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect," during this year's Workers' Memorial Week, which took place from April 22 to 29. The report states that there were 5,147 such fatalities in 2017. While this is an improvement from the 5,190 who died in 2016, it is still higher than 2015's death toll of 4,836.

The three leading causes of death among workers were transportation accidents; slip, trip and fall incidents; and workplace violence. The first accounted for 2,077 deaths in 2017, the second for 887 and the third for 807. Workplace violence also led to some 29,000 injury cases where workers in the private industry lost time from work.

Moreover, workplace illnesses are killing an average of 95,000 workers every year: That comes to 275 workers every day in 2017. One watchdog group, Public Citizen, has called attention to heat stress. It has led to 815 worker deaths and over 70,000 injuries between 1992 and 2017.

Another report, released by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, has called out 12 companies known for neglecting safe practices. This "Dirty Dozen" includes some of the world's most profitable companies.

Companies have a responsibility to keep their workers safe from harm, but they naturally cannot prevent all accidents from happening. Those who are injured through no fault of the employer's may still be covered for their medical bills and part of their lost wages; all they have to do is file a workers' compensation claim. Employers have a right to deny payment, though, especially if they can show that employees themselves were negligent, so victims may want a lawyer to assist them.

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