Another worker was fatally injured after being pinned by a branch from a tree he was trimming on Sunday in Annapolis. And, on Wednesday, another construction worker, a man in his mid-30s, was standing on a scaffold while installing siding on a new house in Odenton when he came into contact with a live electrical wire and was fatally electrocuted.
All four separate deadly incidents this month are being investigated by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office and it could be weeks before any of the investigations are concluded and the causes of the accidents are determined.
All too often, employers fall short when it comes to knowing what is required under federal and state occupational and health safety laws, said Jeffrey Lancaster, president and CEO of Lancaster Safety Consulting Inc., a workplace safety consultant based in Wexford, Pa.
“They try to work safely, but they are often unaware of an employer’s responsibilities and duties,” which generally involve providing a workplace free of known health and safety hazards, continually assessing a workplace and taking preventive measures.
Accidents that involve slips or falls remain among the most common and can happen in almost any setting, he said. Risks tend to be greater in construction or on jobs involving trenching, chemicals and driving, Lancaster said.
When companies need to cut costs, departments that oversee safety often are targeted, said Travis Trader, director of industrial hygiene for Environmental Health and Safety Solutions in Parkton, a safety consultant on transportation and government contracts.
“Quite a few of them cut back a few years ago, and we haven’t really seen the growth back in those divisions yet,” Trader said.
Trader was not familiar with any of the recent incidents of worker deaths.
Statistics from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show workplace fatalities in Maryland peaked in 2006, with 106 deaths reported that year. The number dropped to 60 in 2008 before increasing slightly each year through 2013, when 79 deaths were reported. In 2014, 73 deaths were reported. Results for last year won’t be published until December.
Workplace fatalities rose nationwide in 2016 as well as in Maryland. In the United States, 5,190 workplace deaths were reported, up from 4,836 in 2015.
“Many employers have a good safety record, but it doesn’t mean they are following lawful requirements,” Lancaster said. “We believe employers should reach out before hand,” to OSHA, insurance carriers or consultants, and “not just put a safety program together based on their own knowledge.”