Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

First Coast Scores Well in Safety on the Job; AFL-CIO Calls for More Oversight, but Not All Want More Regulations

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

First Coast Scores Well in Safety on the Job; AFL-CIO Calls for More Oversight, but Not All Want More Regulations

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

From the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, in April, to the factory collapse in Bangladesh in early June, workplace safety has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, with some pushing for increased regulation or more enforcement of existing laws.

One of those groups, the AFL-CIO labor union, recently released a report on workplace deaths.

The bad news: 4,669 people across the nation died in 2011, the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

The good news: Florida ranks in the group of safest states, and Jacksonville one of the safer cities.

Florida recorded 226 on-the-job fatalities, landing the Sunshine State a ranking of 15th out of the 50 states. That's a ratio of 2.9 deaths per 100,000 workers.

The Jacksonville area had 19 of those deaths.

While the Florida ranking is in the top 30 percent, everyone agrees they would like to see workplace deaths drop even lower.

While Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams blamed lack of labor representation for many of the deaths, he also said lack of government oversight contributes to the problem, with the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations being woefully understaffed.

"Look, there are many areas where I'm not for increased regulations," Williams said. "But when it comes to safety issues, when it comes to having employees to protect, we need more regulation. ... There can be some balance."

But Florida Chamber of Commerce officials said accidents can hardly be blamed on labor issues or lack of regulations. State chamber spokeswoman Edie Ousley said increased regulation and union representation won't help.

"Some regulations can become overreaching and do more harm than good," Ousley said. "... The last thing Florida needs for our competitiveness is more union activity."

Candace Moody, the vice president of communications at WorkSource, a First Coast nonprofit workforce initiative organization, said that she was pleasantly surprised by the ranking for Florida and the Jacksonville area's relatively low number of workplace fatalities. …

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