National Safety Group Hits Massachusetts for Workplace Safety

A national report on preventable deaths gave Massachusetts a C grade for laws regarding workplace safety.

Out of the three categories that comprised the overall grade, the commonwealth got the worst mark, a D, for workplace safety.

Local advocates said the issues the report raised are the same issues they have been pushing for years and are afraid the trend will get worse.

According to the report by the National Safety Council, 59 workers were killed on the job in Massachusetts in 2015. The number increased the following year.

Al Vega, the policy and programs director for MassCOSH, a local chapter of the national workplace safety advocacy group, said 62 people were killed on the job in 2016, not including another eight firefighters who died from work-related illnesses like cancer or respiratory disease.

“We saw a 10-year high in the total number of workers killed on the job,” he said.

Last year’s number include the fatal trench collapse in the South End last October. Kevin Otto, the owner of Atlantic Drain, the company that employed the workers, was charged with manslaughter for not having proper trench safeguards.

The safety report docked points from the Bay State for not having a workplace violence law, or for covering all state and local employees with federal OSHA protections.

Vega says his group has been fighting for change for years on the very same issues.

“This is a trend we’ll unfortunately just see getting worse,”  Vega said.

Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine all scored a B for workplace safety.

Vermont got a D.

Rhode Island was slapped with an F for not having a drug-free workplace law or a workplace wellness law.

Debbie Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said people sometimes ignore more immediate dangers to themselves, and worry about spectacular tragedies.

“We worry about things like plane crashes and lightning strikes but really the most dangerous things are the things we do every day,” Hersman said.

Massachusetts fared better in the home and community safety category, earning a C. The state lost credit for not requiring sprinklers in homes or CPR training for high school graduates, among other things.

And Bay State roads also scored a C, getting docked for not having a number of child restraint and good Samaritan laws.

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