If you only looked at statistics, you would think that workplaces are getting safer. In 2009, the number of on-the-job injuries and accidents decreased. Unfortunately, improved working conditions are not to thank for the drop in workplace accidents. Unemployment is.
According to a spokesperson with AFL-CIO, many of the most deadly industries were those that were hardest hit in the recession. People who work in construction, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing can't suffer from on-the-job injuries if they aren't working.
Many critics suggest that since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970, it has lacked the authority and funding to make significant changes in the workplace. The year the act was signed, 13,800 workers were killed on the job. The latest research from the AFL-CIO suggests that now there are between 8 and 12 million workplace injuries and deaths annually.
Like most government programs, blame is focused on the presidential administration. One report blames the Bush administration for "eight years of neglect and inaction...[that] seriously eroded safety and health protections." Conversely, a former OSHA policy analyst said, "We are still waiting for the Obama administration to propose a substantive health or safety standard."
The Obama administration has implemented small steps to increase on-the-job safety. OSHA was given additional funding, and more inspectors were hired. Even so, there are still not enough OSHA inspectors to adequately visit every employer that falls under OSHA's jurisdiction.
Read more in the next post to learn about the proposed changes to OSHA. In the country's current economic standing, it is not feasible to overhaul the entire program. However, there are proposed changes that could take drastic steps in keeping workers more safe.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Deaths Decline Due To Recession, Not New Safety Regulations," Lila Shapiro, 28 April 2011