Workplaces may be less safe in recession despite falling injury trends
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledged that industries with traditionally the highest number of workplace injuries, such as construction, have lost the most jobs in the recession. In addition, the average number of work hours across all industries has also decreased. However, Paul Dansker, partner at Dansker & Aspromonte Associates in New York City, said it is possible that workplaces are even less safe today.
"Companies may be cutting back on safety measures, enforcement and safe practices in order to reduce costs," he said. "Sadly, providing proper safety equipment, training employees to work safely, and supervising employees can be expensive and may be viewed by employers as a low priority."
Dansker said another cause for the drop in reported injuries may be a reluctance to report a workplace accident. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately one-third of full-time workers and three-quarters of part-time workers do not have paid sick leave. In addition, many workers in the construction field are undocumented aliens who are afraid to make waves, particularly in a tough economy. A worker, Dansker said, may choose to ignore a work-related injury rather than lose income or even worse, lose his job.
"Not only can this exacerbate the injuries, but it also will ultimately cause the worker to lose the right to much needed and legally permissible compensation," he said.
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January 21, 2010
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