The Bureau of Labor Statistics has issued its report on personal injuries in the workplace for 2005. The total number of deaths (5,702) is down a fraction from the previous year's 5,764. While 64 fewer people died on the job-site last year than the year before, and that is a blessing, the number is statistically insignificant when looking at the the 143 million participants in the workforce.
In some respect any decrease is surprising given the Bush Administration's adverse approach to encroaching on big business to enforce workplace safety and in consideration the repeal of the OSHA standards which were put into effect by former President Bill Clinton on January 16, 2001 following 10 years of studies and hearings. The overturning of these standards underscored the reactionary social agenda which has been pushed by the Bush administration, which includes huge tax breaks for the wealthy and a push to lift virtually all restrictions of the ability of big business to exploit the working class.
The safety regulations overturned covered 102 million workers in 6.1 million workplaces and required employers to inform workers about common injuries and hazards and refrain from taking punitive measures against those reporting injuries or dangerous working conditions.
According to the 2005 report:
– If you're going to die at work, it's still most likely to happen on the highway.
– In construction, falls kill more people than anything else. Laborers die at higher rates than workers in the other trades.
– Men comprise 54% of the workplace and 93% of the fatalities.
– Women have a higher rate of death in two areas: on the highway and as the victims of homicide.
– Despite the secretary's reassurances, 917 Hispanics and Latinos died at work in 2005. That's 16 per cent of the fatalities for a group that comprises about 13 per cent of the workforce.
– The most dangerous occupations are fishing, logging and airline pilots – the high fatality rates a combination of high danger and relatively low total numbers in the workforce.
– Among more common occupations, drivers/sales/trucking is the most dangerous, followed by agricultural workers and construction laborers.
The bottom line is too many people die preventable deaths each year in the workplace. Employers that sacrifice the health and safety of their employees for profit must be held accountable. Employees must not be afraid to stand up to protect their own by reporting safety violations that are observed in the workplace, even when faced with the threat of being fired for coming forward. After all, if workers cannot rely on their employers to prevent personal injury at the workplace then they must rely on each other or the next death may be that of a co-worker or their own.