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Workplace deaths in Maine higher than national average; transportation related deaths the highest

Earlier this year, the Maine Department of Labor issued a report on the number of workplace deaths in Maine in 2011, the most recent year of available data. The report showed that more people died in the workplace during 2011 than during any year since 2003. In 2011, workers died in the workplace at a rate of 4.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, a rate greater than the national average of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 workers.

Transportation related incidents were the most common type of fatal event for workers in 2011. This may come as a surprise to some who think fishing, logging, or construction would be riskier than driving. “In many of those jobs,” however, “people have taken many precautions to avoid those injuries,” said Michael Bourque, senior vice president for external affairs at the Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Co., which provides workers’ compensation insurance to Maine companies. “Maybe that says something about our complacency. It’s the stuff you don’t think about, it’s the driving you do every day that’s as risky as anything people do at work.”

The relatively high number of transportation related fatalities in Maine should serve as a warning to commercial drivers. Unfortunately, it is all too common for employers to expect drivers to skirt U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) rules designed to protect the safety of the drivers and other motorists on the road. For example, companies too often expect drivers to drive more hours than DOT rules allow. If you are a driver and you have decided to take a stand against your employer asking you to violate DOT rules, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn about legal protections against retaliation.

For families of employees who die on the job, they may be entitled workers compensation benefits. If someone other than the employee caused the death, such as a motorist who didn’t work for the employee’s employer, the family may also be entitled to compensation for the loss of their loved one from the insurance company that provided coverage to the person that caused the death. If you have lost a family member to a workplace accident, you should also contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn about the types of workers compensation benefits and potentially other compensation available to you and your family.