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Dying to work: 150 job-related fatalities every day

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A farm worker overcome by fumes while loading pig manure onto a truck in Ohio; a convenience store clerk shot during an attempted robbery in New Jersey. Both men are among the 150 job-related fatalities in the U.S. every day, many of which federal regulators say are preventable.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) this month proposed fines against the companies involved in these two incidents, saying employee safety had been disregarded.

On average, 13 workers were fatally injured and more than 10,000 were hurt or made ill every day in 2014, according to a report released this week. The numbers don't include deaths from chronic occupational diseases, which kill an estimated 50,000 workers each year. All told, the daily toll is 150 workers a day.

On Thursday, OSHA said an investigation of an October 2015 shooting in Irvington, New Jersey, found the employer "exposed the store associate to workplace hazards," resulting in a willful citation and proposed fine of $14,000.

"In the past five years, 20 workplace violence incidents involving theft, armed robbery and fights occurred at this store," Kris Hoffman, OSHA's area director in Parsippany, New Jersey, said in a statement. "[Management] was well aware of this history and, even after the death of its employee in October the employer did nothing to implement safety measures to protect employees."

A husband and father, 57-year-old Ashiwin Patel was a longtime clerk at the shop where he was shot, according to news reports.

Earlier this month, OSHA cited a fertilizer company for serious safety violations and proposed $16,800 in fines following its probe into the death of a worker who died after inhaling hydrogen sulfide gas from the manure he was loading onto a trailer at a farm in Vickery, Ohio.

That worker, Humberto "Antonio" Padua Hernandez, was either 31 or 32 when he died, according to published accounts. Born in Mexico, Hernandez, had reportedly worked for the farm about six years.

"Symptoms from overexposure to hydrogen sulfide gas can come on rapidly and quickly overcome a worker," Kim Nelson, OSHA's area director in Toledo, said in a statement. "It is imperative that farm workers are protected from inhaling these gases."

The deaths of both men tell just two stories of all the workers who die each day from preventable workplace injuries and illnesses, according to an annual report released this week by the AFL-CIO. Based on 2014 federal labor statistics and OSHA data, the report details the dangerous conditions many American workers face, 4,821 of whom were killed on the job in the U.S. that year.

"Too many employers are cutting corners, and workers are paying the highest price," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement released with the findings.

The figures were no improvement from the prior year: 2014's fatal injury rate stood at 3.4 per 100,000 workers, up from 3.3 per 100,000 workers in 2013.

As in past reports, Latinos were among the most at risk, with 804 Latino workers dying on the job in 2014 and a fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000 workers, nearly 9 percent above the national average. Sixty-four percent of the Latinos killed on the job were immigrants.

The union found older workers at high risk, with 35 percent, or 1,691, of all fatalities occurring in workers 55 or older, the highest number of deaths ever recorded for this age group.

In 2014, Wyoming surpassed North Dakota as the state with the highest fatality rate of 13.1 per 100,000 workers.

Of sectors, construction was the most deadly, with 899 dying on the job in 2014, up from 828 deaths in 2013.

A total of 766 deaths occurred in transportation and warehousing in 2014, while 584 died in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.

Violence on the job intensified in 2014, causing 765 deaths, 724 of them from another person and 41 by an animal.

The leading source of death from workplace homicide were those supervising sales workers (58 deaths), followed by motor vehicle operators (50 deaths) and law enforcement workers (46 deaths).

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