Sunday, April 30, 2017

Massachusetts' workplace deaths hit a 10-year high, as 70 workers died in 2016

A construction worker in Sutton, a chef and caterer in Hudson, and a pizza delivery driver in Bellingham were among the 13 Central Massachusetts workers who died on the job last year, as workplace deaths hit a 10-year high statewide.

According to the Massachusetts Coalition For Occupational Safety And Health, 70 Massachusetts workers died from workplace injuries or causes in 2016.

In all, 62 workers died on the job; the other eight were firefighters who died of workplace-related disease, according to the report released late Thursday by the advocacy group known as MassCOSH. Several were in Central Massachusetts.

An electrician in Marlborough, an arborist in Leominster, and a recycling worker in Northbridge all died last year. Several of the local workplace fatalities were in public safety, including Auburn police officer Michael Tarantino, who was shot last May, and State Trooper Thomas Clardy, who was killed on the Mass. Pike in Charlton when another driver slammed into his parked vehicle last March.

A 70-year-old worker who worked at at Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford for five decades also died last November.

So far in 2017, two Central Massachusetts workers have died -- a Fitchburg firefighter and a heating, ventilation and air conditioning worker in Millbury.

MassCOSH profiled several of the victims, including the Bellingham delivery driver, 18-year-old Nicholas Penza. In a February snowstorm early last year, his vehicle went off the road and hit a telephone pole. He was taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Several of the cases were investigated by OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to MassCOSH.

Among them are 26-year-old arborist Nicholas Kallio, who fell while working in Leominster, 60-year-old Paul Trioisi, who was struck while working in Phillipston, and Roger Fournier, a 35-year-old mechanic who was struck while on the job in Bellingham. Fines were levied in the Kallio and Fournier cases, but not in Triosi's death.

Statewide, the most common cause of death was an automobile accident, with almost half of the cases. Other causes included falls, slips or trips, as MassCOSH categorizes it, contact with objects or equipment, or exposure to harmful substances. Two people were killed in workplace violence incidents.

A total of 24 deaths took place in the construction industry. The most notable case may have been the two Boston workers who drowned in a construction trench last October.

MassCOSH scheduled a morning memorial event outside the State House steps Friday, Workers' Memorial Day, to honor the workplace accident victims.

"Work continues to kill and maim workers in epidemic and alarming numbers," the group said in the report. "This report has been compiled to highlight these tolls. The saddest aspect of the loss of lives and limbs is that work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable."

Here are the Central Mass. workers who've died on the job since the start of 2016:

Ricardo Oliveira, 22, construction worker, Sutton

Nicholas Penza, 18, pizza delivery driver, Bellingham

Nicholas Kallio, 26, arborist, Leominster

Gerald Bunker, 70, firefighter, Ashland

Ronald Tarentino Jr., 42, police officer, Auburn

Alfred Lemoine, 74, recycling worker, Northbridge

Paul Troisi, 60, construction worker, Phillipston

Nelson Antonio Umanzor, 38, truck driver, Littleton

Geraldo Santos, 43, construction contractor, Maynard

Barbara Clement, 64, town constable, Milford

Roger Fournier, 35, mechanic, Bellingham

William Deveaux, 55, electrician, Marlborough

John Folkes, 54, HVAC worker, Milbury

Diane Fitchel, 62, grocery store employee, Acton

John Mulcahy, 63, firefighter, Fitchburg

Source: MassCOSH