Workplace deaths up 30 percent regionally, with York County recording most

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

The recent spike in workplace deaths in southcentral Pennsylvania was eyepopping and unsettling for Kevin Chambers.

“We had just had a report for our 20th fatality," said Chambers, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Harrisburg. "It was in my head and it was laying on my heart, and I said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe we reached 20 fatalities.’ It’s so many to have occurred."

Then another workplace death was reported, bringing the total to 21.

For the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, workplace fatalities are up 30% in the 14-county region that includes York County compared to the previous fiscal year, according to OSHA figures. Comparatively, there were 15 workplace deaths in 2021 and 14 in 2020. 

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York County is leading the region when it comes to deaths that occur on the job. Of those 21 workplace fatalities in the region, seven have occurred in York County, according to OSHA. 

Chambers felt compelled to put out a call to action to employers to look at what’s going on in their workplaces when it comes to employee safety. 

“It just so happened when I was originally putting some ideas together and I shared it with the office of public affairs, we had our 21st fatality. I believe it was the day I submitted it to them,” he said. 

Prepared Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine syringes for children ages 5 to 11 and adults are displayed on a table at Northwest Community Church in Chicago, Dec. 11, 2021. One of the workplace deaths OSHA investigated this fiscal year in York County involved a workers who died after contracted COVID while at work.

OSHA decided to ask area industries and businesses under their umbrella to remind workers about safety procedures and protocols while on the job.  

“We are reminding employers in southcentral Pennsylvania to take the time to evaluate their workplace safety and health programs,” Chambers said. “So, if they go and they find hazards, fix them. Employ the proper protections that are necessary. Talk to your employees. Are they seeing something? Are there any indications that something is starting to break or go wrong or not be right? Look into it and get it fixed.” 

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Chambers said there is no one thing he can pinpoint as the reason why workplace fatalities have increased. 

“I wish there was an opportunity for us to do some degree of predictive analysis,” he said, “but our fatalities have been across just a variety of different industries and a variety of different trade work, because we’ve had general industry and construction fatalities. There isn’t any one specific common thread between them that we can pinpoint.” 

Kevin Chambers

These are the workplace deaths that occurred in York County in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2021, as reported to OSHA: 

  • On Oct. 16, 2021, at the York County Cerebral Palsy Home in West Manchester Township, an employee died after contracting COVID-19. Chambers said because the illness was contracted at work, OSHA listed it as a work-related fatality. 
  • On Oct. 25, 2021, at Johnson Controls International in Spring Garden Township, an employee was crushed by an HVAC unit that was being moved by a crane. 
  • On Dec. 10, 2021, at Pennex Aluminum Co. in York City, an employee succumbed after experiencing an unspecified workplace injury. 
  • On Dec. 28, 2021, a construction worker for Benfer Construction was struck by a falling pole and died in Dover Township. 
  • On March 26, 2022, an employee died at Lifepath Thrift Stores in York City after receiving a head injury. 
  • On July 27, 2022, a man working for Joe Darrah Inc. was crushed by a forklift at J&K Salvage in Spring Garden Township while performing maintenance. 
  • On Aug. 1, 2022, an employee at Smith Auctioneers in Chanceford Township fell down a flight of stairs and later died from her injuries. 

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OSHA’s call to action coincided with the agency’s Safe + Sound Week, which is an annual nationwide event held each August that recognizes the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas for keeping America's workers safe. More than 50 Pennsylvania businesses and organizations participated in this year's event, which ran Aug. 15-21, with at least 14 groups taking part in southcentral Pennsylvania. 

“Ultimately, we want to do what we can for workers to be able to go home unharmed at the end of the day and go back to their families,” Chambers said. 

— Reach Anthony Maenza at amaenza@yorkdispatch.com or @atmaenza on Twitter.