Recent Report: Workplace Safety Still Has a Long Way to Go
Updated: Oct 27
Even though worker fatalities are generally declining across the country, employers still have a long way to go to improve safety. A recent increase in job-related accidents demonstrates that companies must still take steps to instill a safety culture. However, some companies view safety spending as taking away from their bottom line and competitiveness.
Safety Trends Are at Risk
The general long-term trend in the United States has been towards safer workplaces. Since the OSH Act of 1970 was signed into law, workplace fatalities have dropped sharply as companies face real consequences for breaking worker safety rules. A recent drop in OSHA budgets and enforcement, however, has allowed some employers to cut corners, possibly because there is less chance of getting caught. As a result, worker fatalities are slowly beginning to increase in recent years. This has gotten worse recently as some companies cut safety training during the pandemic.
The biggest thing that companies can do to improve worker safety is to adopt a mindset where safety and productivity go together. Unfortunately, too many employers categorize safety concerns and productivity as a zero-sum game. They often sidestep safety training to avoid slowing production and workers are the ones who pay the price.
Transportation and Substance Exposure: Workers at Risk
One area where worker safety has decreased noticeably is in employment-related transportation. Dangerous roads have caused transportation-related fatalities to reach their highest level since 2011. Tight deadlines and a failure to follow federal transportation regulations have also increased the number of driver injuries and fatalities.
In addition, a decline in environmental enforcement has placed workers at risk of exposure to toxic substances. Deaths from exposure to toxic substances have reached their highest number ever. This includes overdoses on the job. Companies can stand to improve both the safety of their working environment and their substance abuse education.
Much of the progress that the country has achieved over the last half-century is in jeopardy right now. Some blame can be placed on the federal government for cutting back on enforcing its own rules. The OSHA budget should be restored and increased to keep workers safe. Companies should also realize that spending money on worker safety can increase their bottom line because they won't have to stop production as often after accidents.