It’s something that families don’t like to think about, but every day in this country, people die – through no fault of their own – while working on the job.
Some industries are known to be especially dangerous – workplaces like steel mills, steel foundries, iron foundries, construction sites, fisheries, logging enterprises, and refineries are all notoriously known as being unsafe and sometimes fatal for workers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has assigned some of its employees to do nothing but gather and categorize employee deaths on the job across the country, and tally the results into census tables and statistical reports for the government, employers, and the public at large to review. The latest online result of their efforts chronicles workplace injuries and deaths in 2008.
Dangerous Working Conditions Aren’t Something New
That some lines of work are inherently dangerous isn’t news. Teddy Roosevelt spearheaded a movement to make industrial workplaces safer over 100 years ago. Horrific injuries where men fell into rotating shafts and were dismembered, or had arms or legs torn from their bodies while working with belts or saws, were fodder for muckracking journalists long before the federal government started making laws and regulations to protect workers on the job. During our years of practice, the Ken Allen Law Firm has also seen its fair share of tragic on-the-job disasters, in our representations of on the job injury victims and their loved ones in personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Employers Not Following the Rules and Regulations Isn’t New, Either
Unfortunately, employers do not necessarily see the mandates for a safe work site as being necessarily cost-effective or profit-making. Worker safety can cost the boss money, because the company usually has to curtail its maximizing of profit in order to boost working conditions to make jobs safer. So, inspectors from government agencies like OSHA appear periodically to make sure that employers are protecting their working crews, and employers also have to file reports and provide periodic updates to the government about what they are doing regarding workplace safety.
In this ongoing tug of war, it’s really no surprise that employers have been under-reporting their on the job injuries and fatalities to the government. Beginning in September 2009, OSHA started a one-year investigation into wide-spread fudging of accident reports to the federal government. They are reviewing records for 2007 and 2008; they are interviewing employees and management in companies across the country; and they’re doing surprise inspections of job sites in various industries, looking for both health and safety compliance.
The details of the year long OSHA study can be reviewed online in its Public Notice of Injury and Illness Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program (RK NEP).