Why learn about safety, health and risk management?
Although serious and often fatal injuries were common in the early industrial age, many of us assume that the modern workplace is a kinder—or at least safer—place. We assume that the laws passed in response to atrocities such as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire (discussed in Module 13: Union–Management Relations) and horrific workplace conditions in the meatpacking and other industries have addressed these risks and created an environment free of—at the very least, preventable—work-related injuries. As Figure 1 illustrates, that assumption would be wrong. In 2017, over 5,000 people died due to work-related-injuries in the United States. What is particularly shocking is that 86% of those fatalities were preventable. That is, 4,414 of the 5,147 deaths could have been avoided. At a global level, the International Labor Organization estimates the number of deaths due to occupational injuries and illnesses is 2,780,000 annually.
|Year||Total deaths||Preventable Deaths|
The total cost of work injuries in the United States was $161.5 billion in 2017 (see Figure 2 for the breakdown). According to Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, U.S. employers spent $58.5 billion—over $1 billion per week—on the most disabling nonfatal injuries and illnesses in 2018.
|Total Cost in 2017||$161.5 billion|
|Cost per worker||$1,100|
|Cost per death||$1,150,000|
|Cost per medically consulted injury||$39,000|
Although significant, these costs are a fraction of the total cost of ineffective safety and health management. As occupational health and safety experts David Michaels and John Henshaw note in a GreenBiz article, “a strong commitment to safety and health can . . . decrease training and recruitment costs, increase worker engagement and satisfaction, increase productivity and quality and improve reputational and financial performance.”
In this module, we’ll discuss a business’s legal obligations for workplace safety and health, the enforcement process, how to improve workplace safety and risk management.
- "ILO: Global Cost of Work-related Injuries and Deaths Totals Almost $3 Trillion." Safety + Health Magazine. September 6, 2017. Accessed August 20, 2019. ↵
- National Safety Council. “Work-Related Fatality Trends.” Injury Facts. Accessed November 18, 2019. ↵
- "ILO: Global Cost of Work-related Injuries and Deaths Totals Almost $3 Trillion." ↵
- "Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index." Liberty Mutual Insurance. February 2018. Accessed August 20, 2019. ↵
- “Workplace Safety Index.” Liberty Mutual Group. Accessed November 18, 2019. ↵
- Michaels, David and John Henshaw. "Here's Why Worker Safety is a Sustainability Essential." Accessed August 20, 2019. ↵