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Death still follows some Mass. laborers to work

Once a week, on average, a Massachusetts worker dies on the job. Death comes from falls and vehicle crashes and even homicides. In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available from the state Department of Public Health, the 54 employees who died at work ranged in age from 18 to 77.

Commercial fishing remains the most dangerous occupation in the state, according to a report from the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. From 2000 to 2010, 51 fishermen died on the job, the result of battling choppy seas and using dangerous equipment to make a living. Construction accounts for the second-highest fatality rate.

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“Work fatalities are preventable. As we look behind the reasons why people are dying, we find that there are safety measures that are not being taken,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the occupational safety coalition. Foreign-born workers are at greatest risk of dying on the job, with 2.7 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. That compares with 1.6 per 100,000 among US-born workers.

In Massachusetts, laws were enacted this year to protect temporary workers and day-laborers, who are more at risk because they may be untrained or unprepared for the job they are assigned. Staffing agencies must now provide basic job information, including the name of the employer and the rate of pay.

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at
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