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Nationwide work fatalities up for the third consecutive year

Workplace fatalities were up in 2016 by 7 percent over the previous year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pennsylvania workers might be interested in the top causes of fatal workplace accidents and which industries saw increases in worker deaths.

Transportation accidents were the main cause of workplace fatalities in 2016, followed by workplace violence. Drug-related fatalities were also high on the list. A total of 5,190 workers died in 2016, which is the highest annual number since 2008.

But the most dangerous jobs were not the ones that had more fatalities. Fatal work injuries in industries that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration puts much of its efforts into making safer had stable or decreased fatality rates. It was other job sectors, which OSHA and other safety organizations give little attention to, that saw fatality increases. These industries include healthcare and the food industry.

The AFL-CIO director of occupational safety and health says that the nation's opioid crisis played a big part in the 2016 figures. Non-medical drug and alcohol-related workplace deaths increased by 32 percent from 2015. The AFL-CIO says that budget cuts that could come in 2018 might mean even more worker injuries and deaths.

Many workers are covered by workers' compensation insurance, but being covered does not mean that a worker is guaranteed compensation for any work-related injury. Workers' compensation claims can be denied and often are. One way a worker can increase the chances of a claim being accepted is to be sure that all paperwork is filed completely, correctly and on time. Pennsylvania law requires that injured workers who wish to file for workers' compensation report their injury to their employer within 120 days of the occurrence.

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