Umatilla and Morrow counties had five workplace deaths in 2016, up from a year before when none were reported in either county.
The figures are from initial fatalities reported to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which considers the data preliminary and unofficial. Two died from natural causes at work in Irrigon and Pendleton, and three others died in accidents including an onion shed fire in Hermiston, a farming wreck in Helix and in a garage mishap in Milton-Freewater.
The initial reports also show four other people died at their jobs throughout Eastern Oregon counties, seven more than in the region in 2015 and three more than in 2014. The data also show 63 workplace deaths statewide last year, while there were 58 in 2015 and 61 in 2014.
Aaron Corvin, Oregon OSHA spokesperson, reported the agency would have final numbers around spring, but Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division received notification of 27 compensable fatalities in 2015. Compensable deaths are those eligible for payments under worker’s compensation.
“This is the second lowest number of fatalities ever recorded and lower than the 10-year average of 31.2 fatalities,” Corvin said in an email.
State data show the lowest year for compensable fatalities was 17 in 2010, and from 2011-14 there were 28-31 a year.
Corvin also stated motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among workers in Oregon and the United States.
“Between 2010 and 2014, 136 people covered by the Oregon workers’ compensation system died on the job,” according to Corvin. “Highway vehicles accounted for 38 percent of those deaths. Of 47,718 work-related deaths reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2003 and 2011, 17,037 (36 percent) involved motor vehicles.”
Initial reports for 2016 show crashes killed one person each on the job in Condon and Baker City.