On average, more than 10 U.S. workers die every day on the job, the result of workplace accidents or exposures — more than 4,000 a year in all. Hundreds of thousands more are injured or made ill at their workplaces, many permanently disabled. Those numbers are far better than they once were, but nowhere near as low as they could and should be.
Industry often argues that the nation’s businesses and workplaces are overregulated. But the sheer number of work-related deaths, illnesses and injuries amply demonstrates that when it comes to the health and safety of the people who keep their businesses running and their profits flowing, nothing could be further from the truth. While the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is rightly considered a landmark achievement in the fight for safer workplaces, aggressive enforcement of the law is a thing of the distant past, particularly with respect to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s record of adopting and enforcing regulations to address emerging or long-unaddressed hazards.
As a group of workplace safety experts write in CPR’s June 2014, Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State and Local Policy Reform,
By some measures, we have hit a plateau in our collective efforts to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for all. This is not because workplace health and safety is an unachievable goal. Rather, the better explanation is that our current occupational health and safety system needs reforms to address the changing nature of work in the United States and the changing role of government in our lives.
The Winning Safer Workplaces Manual is intended as a tool for state and local advocates to use to accomplish just such reforms. It highlights successful local campaigns to adopt workplace safety standards, and offers a series of innovative proposals to help state and local advocates make headway even in the face of intense opposition from big-moneyed, anti-regulatory interests.
The publication groups its policy proposals into three broad areas, including:
In the coming months, the authors of the manual will host a series of webinars for state and local advocates. To learn more about the webinar series, contact CPR at WorkerSafety@progressivereform.org.
The manual is available online, here.
The authors of Winning Safer Workplaces: A Manual for State and Local Policy Reform are CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor; CPR Policy Analysts James Goodwin, Michael Patoka, and Matthew Shudtz;; and Liz Borkowski and Celeste Monforton of the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.