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Workplace Safety: a Non-Priority?

With June’s National Safety Month and its emphasis on workplace accident prevention just past us, it feels rather disheartening to read the results of an employer safety survey recently released by the National Safety Council (NSC). In it, fully one-third of 2,000 employees surveyed across the U.S. said that they believed safety was seen by their employers as being less critical than productivity.

For high-risk occupations, the percentages were even bigger. In the construction industry, 60 percent felt that safety was of lower importance to their employers than finishing their work. In the agricultural, forestry, and fishing fields, the number was 52 percent. Because these occupational groups are numbers one and two when it comes to workplace deaths, the survey’s findings should raise an alarm.

Show Me the Numbers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workplace deaths and injuries in 2014 were at their highest level since 2008. During 2014, 4,132 employees died while working, representing an increase of 6 percent over 2013—the first significant increase in unintentional fatalities in 20 years. Over that double-decade period, 92,533 people died while doing nothing more than their jobs. Deaths occurred because of vehicular crashes, exposure to toxic substances, negative interactions with objects or equipment, and slips, trips, and falls.

Some occupational areas had much greater 2014 increases in unintentional injuries and deaths over the previous year:

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing: 18 percent
  • Mining: 18 percent
  • Manufacturing: 11 percent
  • Construction: 8 percent.
  • Workers 55 and older saw their fatalities increase by 4 percent over 2013, with 1,691 deaths.

    Worker Perceptions: True Reflection of Sad Reality?

    The perceptions of the U.S. worker regarding their safety while on the job might impart some insight into the ever-growing numbers of workplace fatalities. Additional significant statistics from the survey include:

  • Temporary and contract workers afraid to report problems with safety: 49 percent
  • Healthcare workers afraid to report problems with safety: 41 percent
  • Almost two-thirds—62 percent—of workers in construction, agriculture, forestry, and fishing believe their organization’s management does nothing more than the minimum required by law when it comes to safety.
  • The NSC’s annual report is released each June and is based on their employer perception surveys. Deborah A.P. Hersman, the NSC’s President and CEO, commented on the disappointing outcome of this year’s employer evaluation. “Every employee deserves a safe workplace. While some of our findings were encouraging, others were a stark reminder of how far we still have to go to ensure [that] safety is every employer’s highest priority.”

    When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

    State and federal agencies, including OSHA, have strict guidelines and regulations to keep workers safe while they are doing their jobs. In some cases, employers might ignore these regulations or fail to ensure they are properly followed. In such a situation, a case can sometimes be made for negligence. Where machines or equipment are involved, there can also be questions of malfunctions because of manufacturer’s defects or improper maintenance.

    With over 30 years’ experience handling workplace injury claims in Indiana, McNeely Stephenson will put their resources to work for you. You may be eligible for compensation to assist you with medical bills and other financial obligations. If you would like to explore your options, contact Mike Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200, or use our online form. At McNeely Stephenson, we believe justice matters.