Why Is Occupational Safety and Health Needed?

Usually, consequences of not addressing safety and health have to do with why OSH is addressed by employers. These consequences include but are not limited to the following:

  • • Injury or illness to members of the workforce
  • • Loss of profit
  • • Loss of credibility as a responsible company
  • • Liability of not addressing safety and health
  • • Loss of productivity
  • • Loss of employees due to danger, risk, injury, illness, death, or unsafe/unhealthy work environment
  • • Decrease of employee morale
  • • Damage to or loss of capital investment (e.g., equipment or facilities)
  • • Decrease in reputation and integrity of the company
  • • View that the company does not exhibit good business practices

Many why questions can be posed regarding the need for OSH, such as the following:

  • • Why address OSH?
  • • Why develop an OSH program?
  • • Why is involvement crucial?
  • • Why is behavior important?
  • • Why is action required?
  • • Why are the varied components and elements of the OSH initiative undertaken?
  • • Why are accidents and incidents tracked?
  • • Why are occupational illnesses tracked?
  • • Why are hazards identified?
  • • Why are interventions and controls utilized?
  • • Why is training and education a part of OSH?
  • • Why is management of OSH important?
  • • Why are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations an important component?
  • • Why is a safe and healthy workplace important?
  • • Why are safety and health incentives as important as rewards and bonuses for production?
  • • Why is communications important for achieving OSH?

This is the first book that sets forth the principles and philosophies for OSH. In the past, most books have always undertaken to provide the tools that would help all those practitioners of OSH to develop the needed policies, procedures, and programs that are used to develop and implement an effective safety and health initiative for any type of company or organization. These have been primarily how-to books. Within this book, Occupational Safety and Health: Fundamental Principles and Philosophies, we discuss the foundational basis that motivates employers to protect their employees from injuries and illnesses caused by exposures in the workplace.

Philosophy is a critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge—that being OSH for this book—as an integral part of conducting business while assuring that an understanding of those principles and concepts is being applied in a manner that provides a safe and healthy workplace for the workforce. This book provides the philosophical basis for application of management principles to OSH as well as the implications of culture to OSH. A short history is provided in Chapter 2 to demonstrate why OSH has become an area of workplace interest. This may help put things in perspective related to the evolution of OSH as it is known today.

The Healthy People 2010 objectives from the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has made the facts available relevant to occupational injuries and illnesses. Every 5 seconds, a worker is injured. Every 10 seconds, a worker is temporarily or permanently disabled. Each day, an average of 137 persons die from work-related diseases, and an additional 17 die from workplace trauma injuries on the job. Each year, about 70 youths under 18 years of age die from injuries at work, and 70,000 require treatment in a hospital emergency room. In 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the American workforce suffered from 2.9 million work-related injuries and illnesses, one- half of which were disabling in nature (about 1.5 million). This equates to an average of in excess of 5,900 injuries per workday. All of these statistics equate to a cost. Professor J. Paul Leigh of the University of California at Davis has seen an escalation of cost since 1992 in the amount of $33 billion. The new estimation of the cost to businesses in the United States has been estimated to have reached over $250 billion in 2012 for a 1-year period.

No matter the numbers, it demonstrates that workplace carnage is endemic and, some might say, of epidemic proportions.

A number of data systems and estimates exist to describe the nature and magnitude of occupational injuries and illnesses, all of which have advantages as well as limitations. In 1996, information from death certificates and other administrative records indicated that at least 6,112 workers died from work-related injuries. No national occupational chronic disease or mortality reporting system currently exists in this country. Therefore, scientists and policy makers must rely on estimates of the magnitude of occupational disease generated from a number of data sources and published epidemiologic (or population-based) studies. Estimates generated from these sources generally are thought to underestimate the true extent of occupational disease, but the scientific community recognizes them as the best available information. Such compilations indicate that an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 workers die each year from work-related diseases.

Current data systems are not sufficient to monitor disparities in health-related occupational injuries and illnesses. Efforts will be made over the coming decade to improve surveillance systems and data points that may allow evaluation of safety and health disparities for work-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths. Data from the National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities Surveillance System (NTOF), based on death certificates from across the United States, demonstrate a general decrease in occupational mortality over the 15-year period from 1980 to 1994. However, the numbers and rates of fatal injuries from 1990 through 1994 remained relatively stable—at over 5,000 deaths per year and about 4.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Motor vehicle-related fatalities at work, the leading cause of death for US workers since 1980, accounted for 23% of deaths during the 15-year period. Workplace homicides became the second leading cause of death in 1990, surpassing machine-related deaths. While the rankings of individual industry divisions have varied across the years, the largest number of deaths consistently is found in construction, transportation, public utilities, and manufacturing, while those with the highest fatality rates per 100,000 workers are mining, agriculture/forestry/fishing, and construction. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Department of Labor, indicate that for nonfatal injuries and illnesses, incidence rates have been relatively stable since 1980. The rate in 1980 was 8.7 per 100,000 workers and 8.4 per 100,000 workers in 1994. Incidence varied between a low of 7.7 per 100,000 workers (1982) and a high of 8.9 per 100,000 workers (1992) over the 14-year period of 1980 to 1994.

The toll of workplace injuries and illnesses continues to harm this country. Six million workers in the United States have workplace hazards that range from falls from elevations to exposures to lead. The hazards vary dependent upon the type of industry (e.g., manufacturing) and the types of work being performed by workers (e.g., welding). The consequences of occupational accidents and incidents have resulted in pain/suffering, equipment damage, public exposure, loss of production capacity, and liability. Needless to say, these occupation-related accidents/illnesses/incidents have a direct impact upon the profit, which is commonly called the bottom line. The previous figures have given no indication that the need for OSH is waning. The mission to protect the American workforce from hazards within their workplace is still as germane today as in the past.

 
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