Jun 7, 2017 6:58 PM

3 NH workers killed on job within days of each other


HOOKSETT — The week of May 16 to 23 was exceptionally deadly for New Hampshire workers.

Three men were killed on the job in unrelated incidents on May 16, 17 and 23, according to the New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Christopher S. Hewey, 37 of East Alstead, died in Acworth in a trench collapse on May 16. George Moran, 70, died on May 17 in Wolfeboro after falling from a scaffold and Frederick Wilhelmi, 32 of Hudson, died May 23 while working for a tree service company.

"These workplace fatalities are tragic and needless," said Brian Mitchell of NH COSH. "Most, if not all, workplace deaths are preventable using well-established safety measures."

Trench collapses are a well known safety hazard. Between 2011 and 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 94 American workers were killed in trench collapses. In 2016, 23 U.S. workers died and 12 were injured in collapses. A trench collapse may contain three to five cubic yards of soil, a single cubic yard of soil weighing up to 3,000 pounds.

Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 350 of the 937 construction fatalities recorded in 2015. Fall protection is required for anyone working on roofs or other areas where the distance to the ground or another surface is more than six feet.

Tree service incidents are common in New Hampshire, accounting for at least one workplace death in each of the past three years. According to the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program, during 1992-2007, there were a total of 1,285 worker deaths associated with tree care in the United States, an average of 80 deaths per year.

The most common causes of death were being struck by or against an object, 42 percent, most commonly a tree or branch; falls to a lower level, 34 percent; and electrocutions at 14 percent.

"There are an average of 13 workplace fatalities every day and each one is a tragedy to the families and friends of the person killed." Mitchell said, "Workplace safety regulations save lives but because these deaths often go unreported in the media, the public doesn't know how important these regulations are and consider them burdensome…nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes your loved one returning home safe and sound at the end of the day."

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