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Local agencies working to reduce workplace deaths

Last year, 32 workers lost their lives on the job

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Community members and several local agencies gathered Friday for the Workers' Memorial Day Ceremony at the Northeast Florida Safety Council Office in St. Nicholas to remember those who lost their lives on the job.

Florida ranks second in the country for workplace deaths according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Last year, 32 deaths were related to construction. 

"It's just disheartening," said assistant OSHA area director Buddy Underwood, who said the Jacksonville area has seen an increase in work-related deaths due to tree-trimming. 

Last year, a dozen lives were lost on the job.

"There's no such thing as an unpreventable accident," Underwood said. "The lack of training, lack of regulatory authority, you don't need to be licensed to be a tree trimmer in the state of Florida."

In two recent work-related tragedies, one man was electrocuted in Mixon Town while painting in a bucket truck, and another man was killed while working in a Southside warehouse when the scissor lift he was standing on tipped over.

Although compliance officers with OSHA are randomly sent to different job sites to make sure workers are following safety procedures, Underwood said it's just not enough.

"We still run into employers that say they're not aware of the standard or they didn't know," Underwood said.

That's why leaders are encouraging business owners and workers to take advantage of seminars and safety classes by organizations like the Northeast Florida Safety Council. Many are offered for free.

"We want to open up the dialogue, improve communication, share best practices and improve safety all over our community," said Leo Hearn, chairman of the board of directors of NFSC.

With more education, they hope to cut down on the number of workplace deaths.

You can also report unsafe practices by contacting OSHA or your local police department.