It’s hard to imagine how much improvement in workplace safety has occurred over the past century of advances in facilities and technologies. As much as the situation has improved in Colorado and other states, however, workers still encounter dangers and suffer workplace injury every day. Sometimes they’re the old dangers caused by the employer’s failure to enforce known safety measures. Alternatively, it can be new dangers, because with technological changes come new dangers unforeseen.
Some believe that workers must increase their unions and band together to assure workplace safety. The decline in union numbers may not be a helpful trend to workers. It may be that workers do better when they unite to protect their own interests. There is indeed strength in numbers, a principle that has been repeated lately by the phenomenal growth of the social networks.
There may be a hidden answer in the online services perhaps workers can form a new kind of unionization through social organizing online. Ultimately, however, it will take a strong cooperative effort between government, workers and employers to bring about enduring workplace safety progress. Furthermore, workplace safety is at its lowest level and worker mistreatment at its greatest where the employees are disenfranchised, disorganized, and unprotected, such as illegal aliens and temporary workers.
Additionally, the federal government has chosen to put inadequate resources into worker protections and workplace safety. OSHA is famous for being underfunded and relief is not imminent. When one looks at the biggest and most recent workplace disasters, such as the Texas fertilizer plant, the BP Oil pollution, and the West Virginia coal mine, it appears that these companies were lax in safety enforcement. Thus, government regulation does have an indispensable role in workplace safety.
Luckily, workers are protected by the workers’ compensation system. Through workers’ compensation, safety is engendered in Colorado and elsewhere as employers respond to the causes of workplace injury. Employers and insurers can ill afford to have the same accidents occur over and over again. That’s part of the answer, but the role of OSHA and its state counterparts are necessary to an overall system of safety. A comprehensive approach will best promote a safer workplace that has the fewest injuries possible.
Source: Washington Square News, “Workplace safety must evolve to protect labor“, , March 26, 2014