It’s well known that the leading causes of death in the US are heart disease and cancer. But it might surprise you that accidental deaths due to unintentional injuries were the third leading cause of death in 2019, claiming 173,040 lives according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We recently covered the topic of increasing worker death rates, where we discussed the most dangerous jobs in the US and what the major causes of work related deaths are. We found that one of the leading causes of worker deaths is transportation. Occupations like delivery drivers and truck drivers have some of the highest number of deaths because workers are often involved in traffic accidents.
However, not every worker’s death is as common as motor vehicle crashes. In fact, Illinois has a history of injuries and accidental deaths that are out of the norm. In this post, we’re exploring real instances of accidental injuries and deaths in Illinois workplaces. As you read through these real life incidents, remember to keep in mind that worker deaths are a public health issue that impact families of victims every year. As a personal injury law firm, our goal is to help victims of accidental injuries and family members of workers who died on the job.
In this post we’ve made an effort to spare readers from overly descriptive language of accidental deaths, so you won’t have to be too on your guard about avoiding content you don’t want to read. However, some incidents don’t need descriptive language to paint a picture in your mind, so consider this a trigger warning for content that references death.
What Causes Accidental Deaths?
There have been a number of unusual causes of accidental deaths in Illinois over the last decade or so. The accidents below were sourced from the OSHA database of work-related fatalities.
It’s no surprise that dangerous jobs tend to be the cause of tragic deaths. Some workers in hazardous occupations risk their lives every day on their job. For example, roofing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the US because there’s a high risk of falling. In 2019 a Rock Island, IL worker was repairing a roof when he walked backwards and fell through an unguarded skylight opening and fell about 21 feet onto a concrete floor. The worker was taken to a hospital and died the next day due to internal injuries and hemorrhaging.
Another, less obvious, dangerous occupation is pest control, especially if the job leads workers into hazardous locations. In 2019 a worker in Hinsdale, IL removed a manhole cover and climbed down the ladder to get a better view of the water direction. The worker lost consciousness and fell into the water, then died of asphyxiation.
Animal Related Accidents
Animals tend to cause their fair share of havoc in accidental worker deaths. In 2012 a worker in Des Plaines, IL was patrolling a residential community pond inside a kayak when he was attacked by swans and fell in the water. The aggressive swan continued attacking him as he tried swimming to shore, but he didn’t make it and drowned.
Insects can also be deadly. In 2010 a Bloomingdale worker at a plant nursery was eating lunch and unknowingly swallowed a bee that had flown into a drink. He felt sick after lunch and later went to a hospital where he died and doctors later found a bee inside his throat. Bee sting deaths and animal attacks are examples of accidents that are difficult to prevent since this is not a common cause of death in workplaces. In addition, animal attacks are not a common cause of death in Illinois, as opposed to a state with more dangerous wildlife, so there aren’t many safety regulations in place for these types of accidents.
Some causes of accidental deaths stem from the condition of the workplace, even if the occupation isn’t traditionally considered high risk. For example, in 2019 in Lemont, IL a forklift operator was attempting to patch a bulk sugar container that was leaking when another container fell, which struck and killed him.
Then more recently in 2021, a Chicago warehouse worker was attempting to move a filing cabinet when a large wooden board that was propped against a nearby wall fell and crushed him. The worker couldn’t move from underneath the board and died. This is a prime example of how an accidental death would have been avoided if a safer work environment had been enforced.
Are accidental deaths preventable?
As a personal injury law firm, we specialize in providing legal services for families and victims of these types of accidents. But helping after the fact is one thing and prevention is a whole other issue. After all, how can you prevent a chain of events that nobody sees coming?
As you can see from the above examples, there’s no simple way to answer this question. In our previous post about on-the-job deaths we covered how a lack of OSHA funding can lead to unsafe conditions for workers in dangerous jobs. Less funding for enforcers allows employers to be more lax with safety regulations, allowing violations to go unchecked. However, sometimes freak accidents happen in workplaces that are not considered dangerous, like the fatal bee sting in a workplace that is otherwise a low risk environment. These accidents don’t discriminate by age groups, demographics, or occupation, so they’re difficult to predict. Can safety guidelines, thorough employee training, and better working conditions lower the risk factor of dangerous jobs and prevent accidental injuries and deaths?
Safety regulations definitely lower the risks, but not every type of accident is foreseeable. Sometimes freak accidents happen that are caused by an unpredictable turn of events. Other times, safer working conditions and training could have prevented the accident, which is why the enforcement of safe working environments should be prioritized.
What can we learn from accidental deaths?
We’re exploring these tragedies because it’s important to be aware that unintentional injury deaths occur more than they should, and there are measures that employers can take to prevent most worker accidents. It’s also important to know that there are legal professionals you can go to if you’ve suffered a work injury or if a loved one was the victim of an accidental death in the workplace. You may be entitled to financial compensation for health care expenses, funeral expenses, emotional suffering, etc. if the employer violated safety regulations or put the employee at risk.
Do You Have a Personal Injury Claim? Contact an Illinois Attorney
If you think you may have a personal injury claim involving an accidental injury or accidental death, please contact the Palermo Law Group located in Oak Brook, Illinois. Our firm specializes in various types of personal injury claims, including motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, and wrongful death claims. Contact our offices here.