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Worker deaths in 2014 highest since 2008

Union workers in Minnesota may have paused for a moment on April 28 to think of those who lose their lives each year as a result of work-related accidents or illnesses. April 28 has been designated Workers' Memorial Day by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, and Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that 2014 was the deadliest year for workers since 2008.

The 2014 surge in worker deaths may come as a surprise to some safety advocates as it follows three years of declining workplace fatalities. Most of those killed on the job in 2014 were between the ages of 45 and 64, and the vast majority of them were men. According to BLS figures, the most dangerous occupations in 2014 were in the construction, warehousing and transportation and government sectors. Automobile accidents were the leading cause of death.

The high number of workers killed in car crashes has prompted the National Safety Council to urge employers to put safe driving policies into place that strongly discourage their workers from using electronic devices while behind the wheel. The NSC also recommends that employers take steps to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by slips and falls or overexertion. Suggested steps include ensuring that all stairwells feature secure handrails, training workers how to correctly stack and lift heavy objects and providing at-risk employees with protective equipment appropriate to their duties.

The Minnesota workers' compensation program provides financial assistance to the surviving family members of those who have been killed in workplace accidents. While fault is not taken into consideration when these claims are evaluated, the process can still be confusing to those not familiar with it. Attorneys may assist survivors by ensuring that they file for all available benefits and advocating on their behalf if the claim is disputed or denied.

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