The head of the Indiana Department of Labor said Monday the increase in last year's total of fatal occupational injuries shows that more progress is needed in workplace safety.
In Indiana, 122 people suffered fatal injuries at workplaces in 2011, according to preliminary data as part of the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The total in 2010 was 118.
"The Department of Labor continues to focus on our highest priority – the safety of Hoosiers in the workplace, and we charge all employers and employees to rededicate their efforts to employee safety," said Lori Torres, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor.
The preliminary report also found that the most risky area of employment in Indiana was driving commercial vehicles which included automobiles, forklifts and construction equipment. Truck transportation fatalities rose 54 percent to 20 in 2011.
The Indiana Department of Labor said it has supported the Indiana Department of Transportation in its annual "Safety Rodeo," which targets truck drivers and encourages safe operations. Officials from the Department of Labor plan to discuss a plan with INDOT to conduct a special safety awareness campaign in early spring 2013, which is the beginning of the highway construction season, to increase safety awareness among employers, employees and drivers.
Deaths in the agriculture and mining sector fell 33 percent to 16 in 2011. The number of deaths at manufacturing businesses in 2011 was 13, compared to 14 a year earlier.
States that tend to have higher volumes of workplace deaths likely have a larger concentration of jobs that in typically riskier occupations such as those in mining, logging or fishing, said Robert Sandy, emeritus professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and occupational safety and health researcher. Sandy said while safer practices at facilities contribute to a historical trend of declining rates of workplace facilities, "the main driver over time has been the change in the composition of occupations and industries away from the riskier jobs."
The state said last year's total is one of the lowest recorded since the report's inception in 1991.
The third largest category of deaths in Indiana workplaces in 2011 was the result of violent acts, which Sandy said reflects a nationwide trend. There were 17 deaths in that category last year.
Illinois had 177 fatal occupational injuries last year in preliminary data, which was down 14 percent from a year earlier. Fatal workplace accidents at the national level dipped nearly 2 percent from 2010 to 4,609 last year.