Las Vegas Sun

January 16, 2018

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Worker deaths decrease

Federal report is welcome news, but there is still room to improve in workplace safety

Workplace fatalities were down in the United States last year to record lows, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 5,071 workplace deaths in 2008, down from 5,657 the year before. That is the lowest number since 1992, when the bureau started its annual census of occupational injuries.

Workplace deaths fell 44 percent in Nevada — 40 workers were killed in 2008, down from 71 the year before.

These are welcome numbers. The question is whether the numbers are an indication of a new attitude in safety. Certainly, in Las Vegas, there has been a change.

After the Las Vegas Sun’s coverage last year of deaths at Strip construction sites, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, showed how frantic work schedules led to a rash of deaths, things changed. Workers staged a walkout to demand better conditions, and the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration took a stronger enforcement stance.

That is a good start, but there is still more work to be done. These numbers show only part of the picture. Part of the reason for the decrease in deaths was the recession, which has put millions of people out of work.

The nation should be grateful there were fewer deaths, but it should not be complacent. There are still far too many injuries and deaths on the job.

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