Wednesday, March 4, 2015

OSHA Examines Cost Workers Pay for Injuries

OSHA’s report, “Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs of Failing to Protect Workers on the Job,” examines the toll of work-related injuries and illnesses on workers, their families and the U.S. economy. According to the report, the ultimate price is loss of the American Dream.

“For many injured workers and their families, 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,” the report states. “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.”

Several factors contribute to this trend, OSHA says. The report indicates that the state-based workers’ compensation system is providing fewer benefits than ever to injured workers, with employers now paying only 20% of the overall financial costs of injuries. Changes in employment relationships in the U.S.—including the misclassification of wage employees as independent contractors and the widespread use of temporary labor—leave companies with even fewer incentives to provide safe working conditions despite legal obligations to do so.

Eliminating hazards and exposures that lead to life-changing injuries and illnesses is the only true solution, OSHA says. “Serious workplace injuries are devastating to the injured workers, their families and communities. Low-wage workers and their families are particularly impacted by injuries. Unless we as a society take steps to address these issues, many of these people will continue to find it difficult to enter or remain in the middle class,” the report concludes.

You can read and download the complete report here.