By Taylor Kuykendall
Fatal work injuries in West Virginia in 2010 were the highest in nearly two decades of keeping count, largely due to high numbers posted by one of Raleigh County’s — and the nation’s — most tragic mining accident.
The mine explosion at Upper Big Branch accounted for 29 deaths, nearly a third of the 95 fatal workplace injuries to occur in West Virginia in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday. The 2010 count is preliminary, but is an increase of 54 deaths from 2009, the second lowest workplace related fatality count in the 19-year-history of the series.
Workplace fatalities national were relatively stable, with a total of 4,547 in 2010, compared to about 4,551 in 2009.
Fire was the most frequent type of workplace fatality in West Virginia, but again, the numbers were slightly skewed as the deaths of the 29 miners in the Upper Big Branch disaster accounted for the majority of the 33 deaths related to fire.
Fatalities due to highway incidents also increased from 11 to 20 in 2010, the preliminary data suggests.
A few other patterns emerge as well. Men represented about 94 percent of the workplace fatalities, and among men, transportation incidents accounted for about one-third of the fatalities. White, non-Hispanic males accounted for 96 percent of those who died from a workplace injury in West Virginia.
The mining industry experienced the highest number of fatalities at 37, while construction workers accounted for 10 fatalities, five of which was a result of exposure to harmful substances or environments.
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries is part of the BLS Occupation Safety and Health Statistics program.
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