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Which states are the most dangerous to work in?

Is it possible that the state a worker is employed in can play a role in their risk of death or injury due to an on-the-job accident? Given that certain types of hazardous industries are concentrated in specific geographical areas, it is indeed plausible that some states see a higher incidence of worker injury.

Fatal occupational injury rates by State
Fatal occupational injury rates by State, 20021.
Number of occupational illness cases
Number of occupational illness cases in private industry by State,20012.
Average annual rate of fatal occupational injuries
Average annual rate of fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 workers by State of death, 1980-20003.
Number of fatal occupational injuries
Number of fatal occupational injuries by State, 20024.

From examining these NIOSH charts, it is clear that there are indeed certain states where illness and death resulting from job-related activities is much higher than others. Alaska, West Virginia and the states surrounding the Great Lakes region show an abnormally high number of victims in both categories. The mid-west is the next most dangerous region to work.

Average State rates of elevated BLLs
Average State rates of elevated BLLs
Average State rates of elevated BLLs per 100,000 employed workers, 1998-2001: (A) 25 µg/dL or greater, and (B) 40 µg/dL or greater5.

The level of lead found in the blood of workers seems to show no real correlation to illness statistics – however, this is most likely due to non-standardized data gathering on the part of reporting corporations5.

Number of MSD cases
Number of MSD cases involving days away from work in private industry by State, 20016.
Rates of MSD cases involving days away from work
Rates of MSD cases involving days away from work in private industry by State, 20017.
Number of disorders associated with repeated trauma
Number of disorders associated with repeated trauma in private private industry by State, 20018.
Incidence rates for disorders associated with repeated trauma
Incidence rates for disorders associated with repeated trauma in industry by State, 20019.

Delving deeper into state-by-state injury statistics, it is clear that while populous states like California and Texas report large numbers of cases, when it comes to per capita injuries related to musculoskeletal disorders and other types of injury, data is not as uniform. Once again, West Virginia sticks out with a high rate of incidents per 10,000 workers. This stems from their extensive coal mining industry, which sees much higher injury rates than almost any other private sector industry in the United States10. In fact, West Virginia accounts for half of all coal mining fatalities in the entire country10.

Number of occupational disorders due to physical agents
Number of occupational disorders due to physical agents in private industry by State, 200111.
Incidence rates for occupational disorders due to physical agents
Incidence rates for occupational disorders due to physical agents in private industry by State, 200112.
Number of occupational poisoning cases
Number of occupational poisoning cases in private industry by State, 200113.
Incidence rates for occupational poisoning
Incidence rates for occupational poisoning in private industry by State, 200114.

NIOSH further divides their injury numbers to demonstrate which states show the greatest number of poisonings versus incidents involving physical injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders, lacerations and decapitations. While this information is anecdotally interesting, it mostly reinforces the previously illustrated geographical distribution of injuries without providing much insight.

Age-adjusted mortality rates for hypersensitivity pneumonitis
Age-adjusted mortality rates for hypersensitivity pneumonitis in U.S. residents aged 15 and older by State, 199915.
Age-adjusted mortality rates for malignant mesothelioma
Age-adjusted mortality rates for malignant mesothelioma in U.S. residents aged 15 or older by State, 1990-199916.
Age-adjusted mortality rates for asbestosis
Age-adjusted mortality rates for asbestosis in U.S. residents aged 15 or older by State, 1990-199917.
Age-adjusted mortality rates for CWP
Age-adjusted mortality rates for CWP in U.S. residents aged 15 or aged 15 or older by State, 1990-199918.

The final distribution of information from NIOSH regarding worker health is much more informative. Pneumonitis, mesothelioma, asbestosis and coal worker’s pneumoconiosis are all diseases associated with specific occupations. These respiratory disorders are caused by prolonged, repeated exposure to certain types of contaminants, such as those found in transformative chemical processes, mining, and agriculture. While examining each chart, it is easy to identify regions where farmers, miners and those who work in asbestos-related industries reside.

In conclusion, when deciding which states pose the greatest threat to worker health, the question really becomes which states host some of the most dangerous sectors of private industry. With West Virginia and Kentucky representing the risk-heavy coal mining business and the mid-western states employing millions of agriculture workers, these two industries play a major role in affecting their state’s per capita worker danger level. These areas, along with the extremely populous California, live-stock heavy Texas and frontier Alaska offer the least safe working conditions in the entire union.

1NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid25.htm
2NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid25.htm
3NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid59.htm
4NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid26.htm
5NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid76.htm
6NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid79.htm
7NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid80.htm
8NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid100.htm
9NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid101.htm
10Rice J, Janocha J, 2008. Coal Mining Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities in 2006. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.bls.gov/opub/cwc/sh20080623ar01p1.htm
11NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid91.htm
12NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid92.htm
13NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid95.htm
14NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid96.htm
15NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid208.htm
16NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid211.htm
17NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid218.htm
18NIOSH 2004. Worker Health Chartbook 2004, NIOSH Publication No. 2004-146. Retrieved October 23, 2008 from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-146/detail/imagedetail.asp@imgid218.htm

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