Workplace fatalities: OSHA reports third consecutive increase

Fatalities in the workplace are on the rise.

The most recent occupational fatality data shows that there was an increase in workplace fatalities in 2016. This marks the third year in a row with a reported increase and the highest number of fatalities since 2008. Accidents that led to these tragic deaths included transportation incidents, falls and violence in the workplace.

How do these national averages translate in Maryland? Maryland has also experienced a large number of deaths at the workplace resulting from violence by other workers or animals at the worksite. These types of accidents accounted for 22 percent of fatalities at the workplace in 2013 - the most recent data available for the state from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation incidents were also an issue. This type of accident contributed to 28 percent of workplace deaths. Falls accounted for 22 percent and injuries due to contact with objects and equipment at the worksite led to 15 percent of worker deaths during this same period.

Overall, the averages here in Maryland are similar to those throughout the nation. Accidents resulting from transportation incidents, falls and violence were all major contributors to worker fatalities while on-the-job.

Do workers who suffer from injuries and deaths from these types of accidents qualify for workers' comp? Workers' that are injured and survivors who lose a loved one in a work related fatality are likely eligible to benefits from the workers' compensation program. Maryland state law requires all employers with even one part-time employee cover workers' compensation insurance. There are very few exceptions to this rule.

How do victims and loved ones get these benefits? It is important to report the accident to the employer promptly. The worker or loved ones of a worker that suffered a fatality while at work can file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Unfortunately, denial of benefits is common. The United States Department of Labor reports that as of the January 21, 2018, 252 of the 510 filed claims in Maryland were denied benefits. This translates to 49.4 percent of applicants denied monetary compensation through the program.

Due to this high denial rate, it is wise for those who believe they qualify for workers' compensation benefits to seek legal counsel. An attorney experienced in this matters can assist in filing a claim for benefits, better ensuring the application is completed thoroughly and all needed documentation is included. Your attorney can also provide assistance in the event of a denial. This can include defending your claim to the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission. Contact an attorney to overcome these obstacles and better ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled.