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Mass. jobs report urges tougher safety rules

48 workers in the state died on the job in 2013

A new report by labor and workplace safety advocates says that 48 Massachusetts workers died on the job in 2013 and calls for increased regulation.

The report, titled “Dying for Work,” was prepared by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of unions; and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit that advocates for improved working conditions in the state.

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The two groups released their annual report Sunday in anticipation of Workers Memorial Day, a yearly remembrance of workers killed, disabled, or injured by their work, as well as those who suffer chronic illnesses because of their jobs. Workers, the families of victims, advocates, and state officials were expected to gather at noon Monday at the State House to mark the day, which is observed on April 28 in more than a dozen countries.

According to the report, falls were among the most common causes of worker deaths in Massachusetts last year, accounting for nine of the 48 deaths. Another nine workers were crushed, struck, or caught between machines and equipment, while five were killed in truck or auto crashes. The total also includes nine firefighters who died from work-related cancer and heart disease, and three members of the military killed in Afghanistan.

The data come from government statistics and media accounts, the authors of the report said.

The report names construction work, firefighting, and commercial fishing as among the most dangerous jobs.

The rate of workplace fatalities has remained relatively steady over the past six years, ranging from a low of 1 death per 100,000 employees in 2010 to a high of 2.1 per 100,000 in 2008, according to the report.

But Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, said many workplace deaths are preventable. She called for more stringent regulations.

“When a worker dies, it’s often called a freak accident, meaning it has never happened before and is unlikely to happen again, so there’s no reason to investigate,” she said. “But our report shows that there are patterns.”

Goldstein-Gelb said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is underfunded and understaffed and rarely levies significant fines on employers who violate safety regulations.

The Massachusetts coalition is also calling for the Legislature to pass bills that would extend safety and health protections to public employees and increase the workers compensation burial allowance.

Dan Adams can be reached at dadams@globe.com. Find him on Twitter at @Daniel
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