Report Focuses on Lessons Learned to Improve Worker Safety and Health

Every day workers die on the job and many more are seriously injured or
sickened by doing their work. The harms to workers, the costs to our healthcare
system, and the damages to communities are immense.

Yet many of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented by applying the
lessons learned from our history of workplace health and safety. It is a
history rich in powerful examples of regulations failing to protect workers as
well as policies and practices that enable workers to be healthy and safe.
These lessons can be used to create far more effective approaches that not only
protect workers but also reduce the harms to society.

To make these lessons clear and useful, the University of Massachusetts Lowell,
Center for Sustainable Production, has released the report "Lessons Learned:
Solutions for Workplace Safety and Health." The report's six case studies
illustrate systemic failures to protect workers, communities, and the
environment such as:

  • Immigrant workers killed and severely burned in house fires caused by the chemicals used to refinish wood floors.

  • Health care workers, hotel housekeepers, as well as meat and poultry workers disabled by back injuries and other musculoskeletal strain from long hours of awkward postures and repetitive movements.

  • Long and avoidable delays in the scientific and legal proceedings used to set health standards protecting workers from cancer-causing chemicals.

Effective, Practical Solutions

Lessons Learned identifies seven high-priority strategies for making workplaces
safer. While improved regulations and enforcement are clearly needed, there are
many other opportunities to improve worker health and safety.

Comprehensive workplace injury and illness prevention programs that tap worker
and employer knowledge, expanded safety and health protections for immigrant
workers, strengthened expertise in occupational and environmental health, and
proven practices to systematically identify and control workplace hazards all
play a role.

A crucial conclusion of this research is that work-related injury and illnesses
could be prevented if chemicals, production processes, and technologies were
designed with worker health in mind. "Prevention through Design" initiatives
are now being used to design buildings that eliminate hazards and make jobs,
products, and materials inherently safer.

With the current need to get people back to work and green the economy,
stimulating innovation that designs out hazards holds great promise for
breaking free of the false dichotomy of safety versus profit-it doesn't have to
be a trade-off.

More info - Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)