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caption: Washington state Worker Memorial Garden in Tumwater. 
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Washington state Worker Memorial Garden in Tumwater.
Credit: KUOW/John Ryan photo

Workplace Deaths Increased In 2014 In Washington State

Sixty-four people died on the job in Washington state in 2014, more than in any of the past three years, according to preliminary figures from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. The fatal incidents varied widely, from an ironworker falling off a roof on Jan. 6 to a logging truck driver being run over by his own truck on Dec. 30.

Traffic accidents were the leading cause; falls from ladders and at construction sites were the second leading killer.

Accidents involving motor vehicles, falls and heavy machinery occur year after year despite regulations aimed at preventing them.

Last year also saw a unique workplace accident: Five victims of the Oso landslide, including two electricians and a satellite dish installer, were working when the landslide hit on March 22.

It's unusual to see these numbers getting worse. The American workplace has generally been getting safer in recent decades, especially as fewer of us work around heavy machinery and more of us sit in front of computer screens for a living.

But last year was the worst for Washington workers since 2010. That year saw 89 workers die, including seven in an explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes. It was the state's worst industrial accident in half a century.

After the accident, Labor and Industries hit Tesoro with a $2.39 million workplace-safety fine, the largest in Washington history. The Texas company appealed.

Four years later, that fine is still tied up before an appeals judge.

In December, the state asked Judge Mark Jaffe with the Washington Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to launch contempt proceedings against Tesoro for withholding documents and instructing witnesses not to testify.

Jaffe will decide whether to go that route later in January. Tesoro has until Jan. 7 to file its response.