Recently the North Carolina Department of Labor reported, and it was noted in the press, that workplace fatalities in the state had declined to an all-time low of 23 during the year 2013. However, the low numbers may be more from a change in the way the Department of Labor counts the deaths, and not necessarily because workplaces are safer. According to a recent article, as many as 80 additional deaths from workplace injuries that occurred in 2013 did not make it into the Department’s report. That is because the Department does not count all workplace deaths, for example deaths among the self-employed, and those who work for small farms and unincorporated businesses. In 2006, North Carolina made a change, and since then it has only reported deaths among workers over whose employers the Department has the ability to levy fines. We are one of just three states that follow this practice. The reporting of deaths in a limited number of workplaces has resulted in an inaccurate picture of the actual hazards faced by North Carolina workers. If you want to get a true picture, you have to examine records from many sources, not just one. According to statistics from the United States Department of Labor, the most dangerous industries in our state are agriculture, construction, transportation and utilities. Unfortunately, early numbers about 2014 show that fatalities in that year were up sharply.
If an employee dies while employed by a North Carolina employer who has three or more employees, his family members are entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. If the death was the fault of someone other than the employer, for example, a subcontractor on the jobsite, or a driver who caused a wreck, there also may be claims against the party that caused the death.