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Workplace fatalities rose by 2% in 2018

Work-related fatalities in Florida and around the country rose by 2% to 5,250 in 2018 according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Dec. 17. Transportation incidents such as motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of workplace fatalities, but the BLS figures also reveal an alarming increase in overdose deaths and suicides. Worker fatalities caused by alcohol consumption or drug overdoses rose for the sixth consecutive year and accounted for 12% of all 2018 workplace deaths, and work-related suicides rose by a worrying 11%.

The National Safety Council has responded to rising fatality figures by calling on employers to take a top-down approach to workplace safety. The nonprofit organization says that workplace injuries and deaths can be significantly reduced by policies that prioritize risk assessment and safety training. Safety policies should encourage workers to report hazardous conditions and make suggestions, and regular performance evaluations should be performed to monitor progress.

Workplace safety experts say that addressing job-related safety in a systematic way can pay dividends about a year. However, they point out that these programs only produce results if safety becomes a key part of business culture and those in leadership positions are held responsible when progress is not made. The BLS figures suggest that employers should also put programs into place to help workers who are struggling with substance abuse or depression.

Workers who are injured while on the job or family members of workers who are killed will usually be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but their claims may be challenged by employers concerned about rising insurance premiums. Attorneys with experience in this area might seek to reduce the chances of a workers' compensation denial by ensuring that paperwork is completed properly and supported by relevant medical evidence. Attorneys may also advocate on behalf of injured workers or family members during workers' compensation hearings.

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