According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the number of workplace fatalities and workplace injuries in the Unites States has declined over the past year. Even with the nationwide institution of workers’ compensation statutes, which allow injured workers, or the heirs of workers killed while on the job, to recover for medical expenses that arise as a result of the injury, and a portion of weekly earnings lost as a result of the injury, a decrease in the number of workplace injuries and fatalities can only be good for workers. Or can it?
According to The Business Journals, the poor economy may have more of an impact on the decrease of workplace fatalities than anything else. Ironically, what should be a victory for workers across the United States may have actually come at their expense.
In 1970, the United States Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The purpose of OSHA was to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Goal was to decrease the number of workplace fatalities and injuries.” In addition to the establishment of OSHA in 1970, several states have also instituted workers’ compensation laws that provide compensation to workers, or their families, who have either been injured or killed while on the job.
Over the past years, since the establishment of OSHA, there has indeed been a decline of workplace injuries. According to the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, the number of workplace fatalities is down significantly from the 14,000 estimated deaths that occurred in 1970. In 2010 there were 4,547 fatal work injuries in the United States, almost 10,000 less than in 1970.
Not only has there been a decrease of workplace injuries between 1970 and 2010, but there was also a decrease in workplace fatalities between 2009 and 2010. This of course may be attributable to increased occupational health and safety standards, but some look to the poor economy to explain this decrease.
According to the Business Journals, the decrease in hours worked in high risk industries like construction, lead to the decrease in injuries in those fields. In 2010, fatal work injuries in the construction industry dropped 10 percent, and are down nearly 40 percent since 2006. Seeing that the construction industry is one of the hardest hit by the declining economy, this decrease in workplace injuries and fatalities, which would normally be advantageous for workers’, actually came at their expense.
Despite the ominous explanation for the recent decrease in workplace injuries and fatalities in the United States, hopefully in the future, as the economy turns around, the decrease in workplace injuries will be on account of increased occupational health and safety standards, not because of the decrease in the amount of jobs or people in the field. However, until the mission of OSHA is completely achieved, and there are no more workplace injuries and fatalities, Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, like myself, will continue to represent the interests of those injured while on the job.