The American workplace can be a dangerous place. On average, 100 American workers die on the job every week. In 2016, in addition to those nearly 5,200 workplace deaths, there were another 2.9 million Americans who suffered serious workplace-related illness, injuries or disability.
Those numbers from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration suggest there’s more work to be done to protect people who are doing their jobs. History shows many workplace deaths are preventable. 50 years ago, before there was OSHA and its rules to protect workplace safety and health, the death rate was more or less twice as bad as it is today.
OSHA is not solely responsible for this improvement, but it’s also not just a coincidence that America’s workplaces have gotten a lot safer and healthier in the period that OSHA’s been in operation. Something more than 100,000 deaths prevented,
The Republicans of the Richard Nixon Presidency who set up OSHA, baked into it, what we would today call stakeholder participation.
Experts from labor and management, science and research were brought onto Advisory Committees or Councils to address issues of workplace safety, from those specific to the construction or maritime industries, to the newest Committee protecting whistleblowers.
2 of those committees were hard at work trying to solve problems particular and general. General, like “the temp problem.” A disproportionate number of the people killed or hurt at work in America are part-time or temporary workers. What’s the explanation? What are the fixes?
Then, there’s the particular problem of construction workers being killed by big trucks backing up. Here, the solution might be better technology.
The Advisory Committee that was working on a lapel warning sensor for construction workers has ceased to function, as has the one trying to protect temporary employees. As part of his promised de-regulation of American business and industry, President Donald Trump, has, in the words of our guest today, investigative reporter Rebecca Moss of the Santa Fe New Mexican and ProPublica, “mothballed or outright killed” all 5 of those expert boards working to make jobsites safer.
Rebecca Moss is an online and print journalist, currently reporting on environmental issues and the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the Santa Fe New Mexican. She is also covering wider issues of workplace safety and health for ProPublica. She previously worked in Cambodia as a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post, covering public health and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Her work has also appeared on Elle.com, the Village Voice, Alternet, Mayfair magazine, BULLETT Media, and WNYC’s SchoolBook. She has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University where she studied magazine writing and investigative journalism.