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Safety First? Not So Fast: The Future of Workplace Safety in the US

The United States is the most technologically advanced nation in human history. Our medical systems save millions of lives every year. The scope of our understanding of disease and injury prevention is immense. Yet American workers continue to labor every single day in conditions that value production over safety. Not only this, but the effects of workplace environmental exposures can linger for months, years, or even decades after the worker leaves the job. Some workers never recover. And far too many do not survive. Nevertheless, health and safety regulations continue to be rolled back. In an already deficient and damaged system, the state of workplace safety in the United States will only continue to deteriorate unless dramatic and immediate intervention occurs.

Mesothelioma

Exposure to asbestos is one of the most significant and ubiquitous hazards in the workplace today. The risk affects a range of industries, from construction to firefighting to the military. Even workers not directly handling asbestos-containing materials may still be exposed: for decades, asbestos was commonly used as a flame-retardant insulating material.

It continues to be found in homes and commercial buildings, with owners refusing to incur the expense of eradication—in defiance both of government regulations and the increasing awareness of the lethal risks of asbestos exposure, the most severe of which is the development of mesothelioma, a rare and furiously dangerous type of lung cancer.

Flu

Far too often, the flu is dismissed as an inconvenience. You feel miserable for about a week, but then you get over it and move on. The reality, though, is that flu claims tens of thousands of lives in the US every year. The CDC estimates, for instance, that 80,000 people died from the flu or its complications in 2017, and the 2019-2020 flu season may be even worse.

Despite the risks, though, many US workers are reluctant to stay home when they’re sick, either because they can’t afford to miss work or because they fear reprisals from their employer or coworkers. The problem is especially significant for workers in the food services industry, which not only puts coworkers at risk but also threatens the safety of the general public. Any worker, but food services especially, should be allowed to stay home when ill in order to keep the flu out of the workplace.

Stress and Burnout

Modern technology has not only changed the way we communicate, play, and get our entertainment, but it’s also changing the way we work. Now more than ever, mobile tech allows us to carry our office with us wherever we go. And while that certainly makes us more productive, it also means that we now have nowhere to go to truly be free of the pressures of work, no time to truly relax and decompress. The result is skyrocketing rates of anxiety, stress, and employee burnout, which not only compromise the workers’ overall quality of life but also diminishes their performance, affecting customers and colleagues alike.

Environmental Contamination

American workers are not the only ones impacted by hazards in the US workplace. The majority of US businesses, particularly in the manufacturing industries, are reliant to at least some extent on fossil fuels, wreaking devastating impacts on both human health and the environment, as was demonstrated more than a decade ago in Al Gore’s groundbreaking documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

Though environmentalists have long sounded the alarm on the necessity of controlling and significantly reducing fossil fuel emissions, the marginal progress made in recent years is now threatened by the Trump administration’s environmentally-unfriendly policies, backed by a value system that prioritizes the profitability of the free market over the lives of ordinary citizens or the well-being of the planet.

The Takeaway

The future of workplace safety in the United States is not what it could be, and it is not what it should be. Workers continue to suffer from the debilitating and sometimes life-threatening effects of exposure to harmful substances, such as asbestos. In addition, financial considerations and workplace pressures often discourage workers from staying home when they are ill, contributing to the spread of dangerous infectious illnesses, such as the flu.

The advent of mobile technologies has also exacerbated a host of workplace dangers, including the threat of anxiety disorders and burnout. Finally, the rollback of regulations by the Trump administration has compromised not only the health and safety of workers but also of the environment. Restrictions on fossil fuel emissions are being curtailed, increasing pollution in the air, water, and land and contributing to a variety of human illnesses, from asthma and COPD to cardiovascular disease. Workplace safety is not just about the well-being of employees. The effects of workplace hazards filter out to every man, woman, and child across this vast country and our increasingly interconnected world, impacting our entire human family and the precious, suffering planet we call home.

Posted by jhamilton at January 21, 2020 6:57 PM
Comments
Comment #453161

What a fabulous post this is! I have never seen this kind of useful stuff! I am grateful to you and assume the number of posts like this in the future. Thank you.

Posted by: Shubhra Seth at February 5, 2020 7:13 AM
Comment #455797

Keyboards, mouse, doorknob, and vending machine buttons are the most common things in the workplace where you can catch a virus or bacteria. It’s really funny because no one can expect that they get flu from their colleague’s laptop keyboard.

Posted by: cover letter writing service at May 21, 2020 4:58 PM
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