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Workplace Deaths Drop in WV, Nation

Fri December 05, 2003 - National Edition

CHARLESTON, WV (AP) Fewer West Virginia workers died in 2002 than at any time since the federal government started making annual counts in 1992, according to a new report.

Forty workers died on the job in West Virginia in 2002, according to the report released Dec. 3 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workplace deaths in the state have been cut nearly in half since 1992, when 77 residents died on the job, regional bureau Commissioner Sheila Watkins said in a news release.

There were 63 workplace deaths in West Virginia in 2001.

"It’s good news for a change," said Andy Brown, special assistant to state Labor Commissioner Jim Lewis, adding that he expects this year’s count to end up at or slightly below the 2002 figure.

Nationwide, the Labor Department reported 5,524 fatal work injuries in 2002, a decline of 7 percent from 2001. As with the state figures, the 2002 count was the lowest ever recorded by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Highway crashes were the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities both nationwide and in West Virginia. They accounted for 12 deaths in the state, or 30 percent of the total.

Three industries –– transportation and public utilities, mining and manufacturing –– accounted for 58 percent of the workplace deaths in West Virginia, though deaths in all three industries declined in 2002. Transportation and public utility fatalities dropped from 15 in 2001 to nine in 2002; mining deaths declined from 13 to 7; and manufacturing deaths dropped from nine to seven.

Deaths among construction workers, traditionally one of the nation’s most dangerous industries, dropped in West Virginia from 10 in 2001 to 5 last year.

Steve White, director of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, said that the decline could be a product of the slumped economy.