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Sunday, May 6, 2012

NH leads nation in fewest workplace deaths

New Hampshire has seen fewer deaths at the workplace than any other state in recent years, according to a national report released last week.

But a spate of recent deaths, including the killing of Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney, has left state workers calling for further safety precautions.

Six New Hampshire workers died on the job in 2010, according to the report released Tuesday by the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor union. That figure is lower than any other state, and New Hampshire’s average of fewer than one death per 1,000 workers is far lower than the national rate of 3.6 deaths per 1,000, according to the report.

Still, with at least five workplace fatalities thus far this year, state workers aren’t prepared to celebrate the report’s findings.

“New Hampshire may have the distinction of having the lowest workplace fatality rates in the country, but our families and communities are still faced with the reality that workplaces can pose real and tenable threats to the lives and well-being of our workers,” Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire chapter of the AFL-CIO, said Wednesday in a written statement.

“Nowhere is this clearer than in the recent death of (Maloney), who made the ultimate sacrifice for his community just days from his own retirement. We cannot rest until the distinction of having the lowest workplace fatality rate coincides with no worker dying on the job in New Hampshire.”

In addition to Maloney’s death last month in Greenland, a Goffstown tree trimmer, Cory Lee Houston, was killed in April when a tree fell on top of him at a Newport home.

Tyler Walsh, a former Bedford High School student, died in March after he was struck by a falling pipe at a Manchester construction site.

Across the country, Texas and California saw the most workplace fatalities with 421 and 326 respectively. West Virginia held the highest fatality rate, averaging 13 deaths per 1,000 workers.

In total, 4,690 workers across the country died on the job in 2010 – up from 4,551 in 2009, but down from 5,920 in 2000, according to the report.

“While we have made great strides in making our workplaces safer, too many women and men in this country and around the world continue to be hurt or killed on the job,” Richard Trumka, the national AFL-CIO president, said in a statement, calling for further safety regulations.

“Workers continue to be exposed to well-known hazards that are poorly regulated and inadequately controlled.”

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com.