State’s work-related deaths at all-time low

Vehicle accidents led fatalities with 19 in ’11

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Deaths in Washington due to fatal workplace injuries fell to 51 in 2011, the lowest number of work-related deaths in the state’s history, the Department of Labor and Industries said Wednesday.

The deaths are reported in the Washington FACE 2011 Work-Related Fatalities Report and are based on preliminary data. Researchers count only deaths from traumatic injuries or acute chemical exposure. Deaths due to illnesses related to work are not included.

In recent years, Washington has averaged between 80 and 90 work-related deaths annually. Those numbers had been on a steady decline. The previous low was in 2009 when 65 workers died on the job.

The report for 2011 noted that fewer workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing industries died on the job. The state also reported fewer incidents involving multiple victims.

Researchers also noted on-the-job motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of workplace fatalities in 2011. There were 19 such deaths last year, eight of which involved heavy or tractor-trailer truck drivers.

The report said small businesses -- those with 10 or fewer workers -- accounted for one third of all workplace fatalities.

By age, workers in the age 50-59 category suffered the most deaths. Fatalities in the construction industry continued to remain low, researchers said, with six deaths reported in 2011.