Job site safety continues to be an important issue for employers and workers. While many are focused on the latest Occupational Safety & Health Administration's fall protection standards, there are numerous trends to pay attention to in 2015. Now, in its recent report, "Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job," OSHA has outlined the impact an injury or death can have on employees, their families and the economy.
According to the report, 4,500 are killed on the job each year. Three million more (at least those reported) are seriously injured. And another 50,000 in the U.S. die each year from past workplace exposure to hazardous materials such as silica This all comes with a hefty price tag.
"The National Safety Council, for example, estimates the cost of fatal and non-fatal work injuries at $198 billion in 2012," it reads.
A good portion of that is coming directly out of the workers' pockets.
"Workers’ compensation payments cover only a small fraction (about 21 percent) of lost wages and medical costs of work injuries and illnesses; workers, their families and their private health insurance pay for nearly 63 percent of these costs, with taxpayers shouldering the remaining 16 percent," the report notes.
The result, claims the report, are families left struggling to make ends meet and the end of the American Dream, with those injured making 15% less in the 10 years following the injury.
"A workplace injury creates a trap which leaves them less able to save for the future or to make the investments in skills and education that provide the opportunity for advancement," it says. "These injuries and illnesses contribute to the pressing issue of income inequality: they force working families out of the middle class and into poverty, and keep the families of lower-wage workers from entering the middle class."
Making matters worse is the increasing number of subcontractors and those placed on a job by a staffing agency, many of which are misclassified, the report states. In fact, in Florida, Texas and North Carolina alone, more than 500,000 construction workers were misclassified as independent contractors. This increases the likelihood of injury because "employers do not have to worry about the OSHA requirement to provide a safe workplace, since the OSHA law does not cover the self-employed" and "these employers avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance premiums (as well as unemployment insurance and other benefits and taxes)," the report claims.
To combat the cyclical issue, OSHA stresses the need for employers to continue to strive for safer job sites. Although the numbers have drastically decreased since 1970, today there are still 12 work-related deaths daily. One way to do so is to stay abreast of the latest rules and regulations. Get started with this month's issue of REMODELING, which provides everything you need to know to keep you and your staff safe and up to speed.