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Arizona sees second-highest jump in US workplace deaths

PHOENIX — Arizona saw the second-highest spike in workplace fatalities in 2013, a report said.

“We had a 52 percent increase,” John Balitis, a labor attorney with Fennemore Craig in Phoenix, said of the annual Death on the Job report from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Balitis said the Yarnell Fire tragedy that killed 19 firefighters is part of the reason Arizona saw a steep increase, but those deaths only accounted for roughly half of the additional deaths Arizona saw in 2013.

“When you extract the Yarnell incident and then you consider how that adjusts (Arizona’s) statistics for 2013, that revised number is not surprising, I think, for a state in which growth is occurring at the rate it’s occurring here,” he said.

Balitis said he expects Arizona’s workplace fatality rate to continue rising as the state’s economy improves and jobs created in higher-risk industries, such as construction.

Despite the spike in deaths, Arizona’s rate of workplace fatalities — 3.5 per 100,000 workers — was not far off from the national average of 3.3.