The Last Weekly Toll: They Shall Not Be Forgotten

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For reasons to be explained soon, this will be the last Weekly Toll.  I’ve been putting this list together almost every week for the last couple of years for a few reasons. We know that around 14 workers are killed in American workplaces every day. Irving Selikoff, one of the fathers of occupational medicine in this country, once said that “statistics are people with the tears wiped away.”  My goal here is to put some names, stories — and dignity — to those statistics. These workers, the lives they lived and the way they died should not be forgotten

Even though only a small number of the roughly 70 workers killed on the job every week can be identified and listed here, it’s important to understand the many ways that workers die in this country every day. And, of course, because these stories are taken from the news, very few of the 150 workers who die every day from occupational disease are ever recognized, much less listed here.

Few of the articles listed here explain how these deaths could have been prevented. Some don’t even include the names of the workers killed. Unless they result in a large OSHA fine months later, most of their stories will never have a follow-up in the media, and these deaths, along with the lessons learned, will be forgotten by all except for the families, friends and co-workers of those we’ve lost.

Occasionally, I’ll be contacted by the family of a worker listed in the Weekly Toll. They’ll want to know more about how the death of their loved one could have been prevented, and what they can do to make sure this never happens to anyone else ever again. For some of them, the Weekly Toll and the other posts in Confined Space became a way for family members and loved ones of those lost to the workplace to find meaning in the death of their loved ones, a voice for their anger and a constructive direction to fight the system that took their loved ones away.

So pay attention when you see that tiny article on page 24 of the local paper about a worker who never made it home. Ask why he or she died, who they left behind — and what you can do to make sure it never happens again.

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Michigan man dies after falling into tank of sulfuric acid

I-4 Ultimate construction suspended after worker’s death

ORLANDO, Fla. – Work on the I-4 Ultimate construction project resumed Monday in Central Florida after a review was completed following the death of a 59-year-old worker. Construction on the 21-mile project was halted last Monday after the man was struck in the head by a 20-foot pipe along Wymore Road near Winter Park. “A thorough review and evaluation of our safety protocols has been completed,” said SGL Constructors, the company in charge of the nearly $2 billion project.

Cop Shot Dead in Alabama, Fifth Officer Killed Since Start of the Year

Mobile, AL —  police officer has been shot dead in Mobile, Alabama, becoming the fifth U.S. cop killed in the line of duty since the start of the year. Officer Sean Tuder, 30, is believed to have been shot by a 19-year-old suspect with prior warrants, CNN reports.

Milwaukee police searching for driver who struck, killed DPW worker near 17th and Vine

MILWAUKEE, WI — A manhunt is underway to find the suspect who killed a city Department of Public Works employee in a hit-and-run crash near 17th and Vine. Investigators say they know who that driver is. Co-workers of the victim, 54-year-old Bryan Rodriguez, tell FOX6 News he was a hard worker and a good friend. They say this all could have been prevented if the driver was paying attention and moved over.

Worker killed in explosion at Mobile recycling facility

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Police say one person is dead after a work-related explosion at Southern Recycling of Mobile on Friday. According to police, the explosion happened at around 3:30 p.m. at the facility at 114 Industrial Canal Road.

Firefighter, family man dies when tire explodes

Vernon, MI –Clare lost one of its own Monday morning when Firefighter Ethan Gage, 26, was killed in a tire explosion at Fair’s Salvage, his workplace in Isabella County’s Vernon Township. According to a release from the Isabella County Sheriff’s Office, Gage was using a tire changing machine on a farm implement around 1:30 p.m. February 4th when the tire suddenly exploded. He suffered traumatic head injuries and died at the scene, Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Milwaukee officer killed serving warrant; suspect arrested

MILWAUKEE, WI  — A 17-year police veteran was shot and killed as he served a warrant on Milwaukee’s south side Wednesday, becoming the city’s third officer to be killed in the line of duty in eight months, authorities said. Officer Matthew Rittner was a tenured member of the Milwaukee Police Department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit, which was conducting a search warrant on someone wanted for illegally selling firearms and drugs, Sgt. Sheronda Grant said in a news release Wednesday night. She said officers announced themselves as police and that the suspect fired several rounds. The 35-year-old Rittner was struck by gunfire and taken to a hospital, where he died, Grant said.

Tow truck driver killed after crashing into tree in Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Newport News Police are working to identify a man killed in a crash in Newport News Thursday morning. Police say they were called to the intersection of Menchville Road and Warwick Boulevard just before 2 a.m. for a tow truck that had hit a tree. Once units arrived at the scene, the accident was upgraded to an extrication. According to police, the man, who was the driver of the tow truck, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Postal worker dies after crashing truck into N. Huntingdon home

North Huntingdon, PA — A U.S. postal worker died Thursday after the mail truck he was driving went over a hillside and crashed into a house in North Huntingdon, according to the Westmoreland County coroner’s office. The victim was identified as Ronald E. Sopko, 47, of Murrysville. Post-Gazette news partner KDKA-TV reported that Mr. Sopko had a medical emergency that led to the crash, which occurred around 10 a.m. on Main Street. After Mr. Sopko lost control of his vehicle, it rolled down a hillside and slammed into a home’s porch, according to the coroner’s office. Mr. Sopko was taken to Excela Westmoreland Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Railroad Worker Killed in Accident Thursday; NTSB Investigating

BALTIMORE, MD (WBFF)– A Norfolk Southern employee was killed Thursday after an accident at a rail yard in East Baltimore.The National Transportation Safety Board said the worker was involved in switching cars around 7 a.m. at the Bayview Rail Yard when they were killed.

CORONER IDENTIFIES WORKER KILLED AT TOYOTA PLANT

SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Scott County Coroner’s Office has identified a contract worker who was killed earlier this week at the Toyota Manufacturing plant in Georgetown. The coroner says 33-year-old Antwian Brifford, of Pikeville, died of blunt force trauma. Brifford, who was an employee of Ryder Trucking, was killed Tuesday when he became pinned between his truck and a trailer. The coroner says the preliminary investigation reveals Brifford didn’t put on the air brake when he exited the truck. Brifford leaves behind three children, according to the coroner.

Worker killed in Fleming wind farm incident

Fleming, CO – A worker was killed Tuesday at the wind farm north of Fleming. The Logan County Sheriff’s Office has released few details about the incident that caused the death, merely that the man, who was employed  Metro Machinery Rigging, the company doing the work for Metro Machinery Rigging, which was working at the site at the time. Officials have not released the worker’s identity or any further details, citing an active investigation into the incident.

Nebraska Man Killed by Bull While Checking Cattle

Deweese, NE — A man in Nebraska was killed on Feb. 5 after he was attacked by a bull while attempting to check on cattle. The Nuckolls County Sheriff’s Office reports that at 7:14 pm on Tuesday authorities responded to a 911 call after a woman reported finding her boyfriend in a field. A deputy arrived at the scene 1/2 mile west of Road 3100 on Road Z in Nuckolls County, just 2 miles southwest of Deweese and determined the man was deceased. Nuckolls County Attorney John Hodge identified the man as Kenneth Volz, 40, of Fairfield, Neb. According to authorities, Volz was checking on cows with a bull present in the field and he was carrying a bucket. The sheriff’s office says that the bull at some point attacked Volz and he was unable to escape.

Store clerk killed in shootout with robbers

CLEVELAND, OH – Police in Cleveland say a beverage store clerk who engaged in a shootout‘ during an armed robbery has been killed and one of the two suspects has been wounded. Cleveland.com reports that the clerk killed Tuesday night was 33-year-old Mohammed Shahin, of the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River. Police say an 18-year-old suspect whose name hasn’t been released was shot in the neck by Shahin and is hospitalized in stable condition. The second suspect, who also was armed, hasn’t been arrested. Two other employees who were in the store at the time weren’t injured.

Coroner identifies armored truck driver killed in Whitley County crash

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (WKYT) – The Whitley County Coroner’s Office has identified the man killed in an armored truck crash Wednesday. Coroner Andy Croley tells WKYT the victim was John Adkins, 59, of Versailles. Police say an armored truck on Ky. 92 heading to Whitley City from Williamsburg ran off the roadway and overturned. The driver was killed and a passenger was injured. Firefighters say the extrication of the victims was one of the most difficult ones they have had.

Tow truck driver killed following crash

NEWPORT NEWS, VA — A tow truck driver is dead after crashing into a tree Thursday morning, authorities said. At 1:59 a.m., police said officers responded to the single vehicle crash at Menchville Road and Warwick Boulevard. There, the “male driver” of the tow truck was extricated from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The tow truck had struck a tree, police said.

Hopewell Truck Driver Killed in Accident

Bluefield, WV — The West Virginia State Police is investigating a fatal accident involving a local truck driver. WVVA T-V in Bluefield, West Virginia is reporting that 46-year-old Thomas Sasser of Hopewell was driving the truck on I-77 in Mercer County, lost control, traveled across the median and over an embankment. Sasser was killed in the crash. A passenger was hospitalized and is listed in stable condition. The accident happened just before 1:30 Thursday morning, according to WVVA TV.  The State Police report Sasser was driving for Bimbo QSR which is also known at the New Bakery Company at the Eastpointe Industrial Park in Zanesville.

Worker dies after falling 15 feet in Jersey City: officials

JERSEY CITY, NJ — A construction worker fell 15 feet to his death on the Jersey City waterfront Monday, officials confirmed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an arm of the Department of Labor, has initiated an investigation into the man’s death after it learned of the fatality from The Jersey Journal’s inquiry, DOL spokeswoman Lenore Uddyback-Fortson said in an email. Police officers responded to the foot of Colony Road at the southern most end of Jersey City after receiving a call for a man who fell 15 feet, Jersey City spokeswoman Ashley Manz said. Emergency medical technicians could not resuscitate him after he was found unresponsive. He was pronounced dead and the incident remains under investigation, Manz said. The DOL confirmed that the man worked for Atlantic Sounding Co., a subsidiary of Weeks Marine, a Cranford-based marine construction company with a location on Colony Road.

Construction worker crushed by equipment in San Tan Valley, officials say

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — A construction worker died while on the job at a San Tan Valley construction site Tuesday morning, officials said. A spokesperson with the Rural Metro Fire Department said the man died after he was crushed by a dirt compactor on a site near Hunt Highway and Mountain Vista Boulevard. He had fallen under the dirt compactor and it tipped over onto him, according to officials. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.

Worker killed in forklift rollover in Woodland Park identified

Woodland Park, CO — A construction worker killed Monday when a forklift rolled on top of him at a parking garage construction site in Woodland Park has been identified as Robert Ummel. Ummel was employed by Executive Custom Construction Inc., said Mike Perini, a company spokesman.  The accident was reported about 9:15 a.m. at a worksite at Charis Bible College. The cause is under investigation, Perini said in an email.

O’HARA TOWNSHIP, MI  — A tree service employee was struck and killed by a falling tree in O’Hara Township late Monday morning. It happened around 10:45 a.m. on Marberry Drive near Bradberry Drive. Police and paramedics were sent to the scene for a report of 33-year-old Adam Hursen being hit by a falling tree. At the scene, responders found Hursen, who had been struck by a falling tree and pinned underneath it. Hursen was extracted from under the tree and pronounced dead at the scene. Allegheny County Police say crews from the Tree Masters tree service had been contracted to remove trees at a home on Marberry Drive. While they were removing one of the trees, it fell unexpectedly and struck another tree, which in turn fell and struck Hursen, who was standing about 40 feet away. Hursen was trapped under the tree for a time before he was able to be freed.

Tractor Death at California Farm Spurs State Investigation

Holtville, Ca – A farm worker employed by Western Harvesting LLC was crushed by a tractor when it flipped over on him, and authorities in California are investigating, those involved confirmed Feb. 5. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) was reportedly informed on Jan. 31 of the fatality in Holtville, Calif. An employee was driving along the side of a canal when the tractor flipped over, according to Frank Polizzi, spokesman for the state Department of Industrial Relations.

Construction worker killed, 2nd injured in Coney Island shooting

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn, NY — A construction worker is dead and a second is injured after a shooting in Coney Island Monday, according to police. Dorothy Dixon, 53, and a 47-year-old man were shot around West 33rd Street and Neptune Avenue, near a construction site, at 11:42 a.m. police said. Dixon was shot in the torso and the man was hit in his left leg. They were shot after a man in a dispute with another man pulled out a gun and fired several shots. Both of those men fled the scene after the shooting. The victims were both take to area hospitals, but Dixon did not survive, police said.

Public Employees Weekly Toll

2 Comments

  1. Hi Jordan, thank you for all of your work on this. It certainly has not gone unnoticed. I have been using your Weekly Toll as part of my surveillance resources for a government fatality database that I manage and would love an opportunity to chat with you about the Weekly Toll and to keep in touch.

    1. Alejandra-
      I’m interested in learning more about your project. I would love to see a public health agency coordinate a public info weekly toll, and work with the other OSH agencies to collect the data.

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