HELENA — An annual report made public by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry has shown that 2019 was slightly more deadly than the previous year in workplaces, with farming the most dangerous industry.
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released last week said the state had 38 work-related fatal injuries last year, a 35.7% increase over the prior year, the Independent Record reported. It also said 16 of the deaths, or 42%, occurred on farms.
“I don’t think it’s surprising at all,” said Austin Grazier, director of agriculture safety for the Montana Farm Bureau, which has 20,000 member families. “The agriculture industry is inherently risky, but it is a good reminder for us to work on safety on farms and ranches and put safety in a preeminent position on all of our operations.”
The state reported that between 30 and 40 work-related deaths a year is average in Montana. The lowest number of workplace deaths occurred in 2018, 2014 and 2013 with 28. The highest occurred in 1992 with 65.
“The data clearly shows that too many workers are being killed and face dangerous working conditions on the job,” Montana AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Al Ekblad said. “As a country we have a moral obligation to provide the regulations and inspections to allow workers to safely go home to their families at the end of the day.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Dec. 16 that there were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded in the country last year, a 2% increase from 2018. It noted this was the largest annual number since 2007 and that a worker died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury during the year, officials said.
Montana State Fund President and CEO Laurence Hubbard said the number of workplace deaths this year is just 9% higher when looking at a 10-year average, but that it is more than just the data.
“We’re talking about human lives, and it’s tragic to lose that many Montana lives each year needlessly,” Hubbard said.
The Montana State Fund is the state’s largest workers’ compensation provider for nearly 25,000 businesses and organizations.
The census is conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and is aimed at increasing workplace safety.
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