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Federal OSHA Officials Say Ohio Workplace Fatalities Rising

Officials said job cuts and retirements could be contributing to less experience in the field.

Tue March 03, 2015 - Midwest Edition
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HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) Workplace fatalities have been rising in Ohio, and federal officials cite lack of attention to safe work practices and training and the existence of younger and newer manufacturing and construction workforces.

There had been an estimated 17 fatal workplace accidents statewide in fiscal year 2015 as of early February, according to Bill Wilkerson, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Cincinnati area.

He said job cuts and retirements could be contributing to less experience in the field and more workers unfamiliar with industry hazards, the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News reported. Many fatal accidents also could be prevented with the right equipment, Wilkerson added.

Wilkerson said OSHA investigated 46 fatal work accidents statewide last year, compared with 38 in 2011.

“There may be just too little regard being paid to instructing people on safe work practices, having proper safety programs and procedures in place and making sure that people follow up on these things,’’ Wilkerson said.

Dianne Grote Adams is president of consulting company Safex Inc., which works with the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. She said manufacturing has been challenged by doing more with less and trying to make safety part of the culture as workforce diversity increases.

Job sites change constantly in the construction industry and with so many variables there’s never one single factor to point to as a cause of an accident, said Terry Phillips, executive director of trade association Allied Construction Industries.

Phillips said construction companies have an incentive to keep their workers safe in addition to concern for their employees.

“OSHA’s regulations require the training and the contractors comply because if they don’t, they won’t get the work,’’ Phillips said.

Among the major causes of workplace deaths are falls, being struck by vehicles or materials and getting caught in equipment.

Directors of Ohio’s four OSHA areas, including Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland, are urging more safety awareness by employers and employees to reverse what Wilkerson called “disturbing trends.’’

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