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Death toll rises in Colorado

The number of workplace deaths across Colorado rose by 15 percent last year, according to new numbers released by state health officials.

"We've definitely seen a rise," says Mary Chase, who directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment vital statistics unit.

Last year 117 workers died across Colorado, compared with 102 workers in 2003.

More than half the deaths were attributed to transportation accidents. Unsafe objects or equipment killed 25 of the workers in industries such as construction.

Since 2003, construction jobs have been rising steadily across Colorado and in the Colorado Springs area, says Joe Winter, senior economist for the Colorado Department of Labor. For example, in July 2003, there were 156,100 construction jobs statewide. At the same point this year, the number was 167,400.

An investigation of federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration data by the Independent earlier this year found that federal inspectors visited roughly 1 percent of the state's 142,000 work sites annually between 1999 and 2004. When the inspectors arrived, they found cause to issue serious, willful or repeat violations in El Paso County more than 62 percent of the time. Such violations can be deadly.

The 2004 statistics are considered preliminary, Chase says. The official count will be released in coming days.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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