Democrats & Liberals Archives

Holding Businesses Accountable for Employee Safety

Photo by Dominik Vanyi on Unsplash

Employers have an obligation to keep employees safe: it’s both a matter of ethics and codified into law through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) and among many other laws, like the requirement to carry workers’ compensation insurance. At the same time, 1 in 7 American employees don’t feel safe at work.

Federal and state laws tend to stick to the direct physical realm. They require businesses to provide safe equipment, protective gear, and regularly scheduled breaks. It all attempts to prevent workplace injury and illness and uphold workers' rights. However, those laws only cover the obvious threats at work.

Other facets of safety, like protection from workplace harassment and bullying, are harder to regulate. Even though issues like harassment may not always include physical threats, they do prevent employees from feeling safe. But how far should the government go in dictating workplace culture? Would it be productive? And do the current policy shortcomings signal that the attempt might be futile -- at least in its current form?

Workplace Safety Has Come a Long Way
Just over a century ago, going to work in many American jobs came with the risk of never coming home. Mining is a perfect example. In 1900, 300 out of every 1,000 miners died on the job each year. Today, mining is still a risky job with both short-term and long-term health risks, but deaths are nowhere near that level. The improvement was the product of government legislation inspired by labor unions and pesky journalists who brought the issue of workplace safety to the public.

The early 20th century was the genesis of workers' rights and safety. The first workmen's compensation law passed in New York in 1910. It was the first law that automatically granted rights to the worker when they were injured as a product of an employer's negligence.

The introduction of laws and oversight like this saw injury rates fall dramatically between the turn of the century and World War II. In the steel industry, the injury rate was 44.1 between 1910 and 1913. By the time 1937-1939 rolled around, it dropped to 11.7 thanks largely to the institutionalization of safety concerns as well as changes in technology and the labor market. Although injuries and fatalities are still possible today, the figures are much lower on the whole, largely thanks to legislation and unions.

Laws Are Important, but They Work Slowly
The influence of government regulation on the health and safety culture of American employers cannot be overstated. However, it is very imperfect in part because the government tends to be slow on the uptake. OSHA can take decades to announce rules for hazardous substances. Some of the exposure limits used today were last updated in 1971. Many chemicals don't even have a workplace limit.

Laws are important, but they are far from perfect and even OSHA fails to have the kind of teeth needed to prevent the estimated 50,000 deaths and 190,000 illnesses that occur on the job each year from chemical exposures alone.

Groups like the Center for Public Integrity say that it's important to make changes to the way regulatory bodies like OSHA work to stop the piecemeal approach to safety. For example, even though OSHA can only set exposure limits one-at-a-time, former OSHA health standards program director Adam M. Finkle says the agency could take a different approach and regulate an entire industrial process instead. Doing so would skip the long battle and put everyone on the same page.

There's More than Physical Safety at Stake
These are the ways the government tries to hold employers accountable when they handle hazardous chemicals or operate in dangerous conditions. Departments like OSHA move too slowly and hundreds of thousands of people become unwell or die every year. What's more, the American workplace is changing dramatically, thanks in part to the internet.

Online and digital safety is connected to both physical safety and online privacy. For example, if an organization invests in internet-connected commercial security measures, like access control systems and security cameras, then an outside attack can present both a physical risk (intruders) and a privacy risk because those devices provide a way into the company network. Even events like phishing attacks can be dangerous for employees because they're a risk to their personal privacy.

There are very few laws that set the standards businesses must use to protect data with the exception of HIPAA (for healthcare entities). What's more, the complex nature of cybersecurity has ensured that the laws that do exist are far from prescriptive.

Workplace harassment is also rampant in American businesses. A 2018 survey found that 81% of women reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. While sexual harassment is a violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and employers are punished if they do not deal with it, bullying is not covered. It's estimated that 75% of workers are faced with workplace bullying, which harms workers' mental and physical health through high levels of stress and anxiety.

The U.S. Needs a Holistic Approach to Employee Safety
A century of legislation shows that not only is a commitment to workplace safety the right thing to do but it works, too. It is far safer to go to work today than it was at the turn of the 20th century. However, the understanding of what it means to be safe at work also needs to change. It must acknowledge the threat to health and happiness posed by cybersecurity issues and workplace bullying as well as physical safety issues.

How will the government deal with these pressing issues if it is slow at preventing exposure to known dangerous chemicals? No one knows, but if the dramatic improvement in safety is anything to go by, it's clear that it should at least begin to try.

Posted by Magnolia at January 27, 2020 12:47 PM
Comment #453005

Nice. Another 1200 x 800 pixel image (instead of 300 x 200), pushing the other Independent and Republican columns off the right side of the page (out-of-sight for most users).

That can be remedied by simply editing the entry by changing the following from:

img alt=”dominik-vanyi-Mk2ls9UBO2E-unsplash.jpg” src=”” width=”1200” height=”800” class=”mt-image-none” style=”“


img alt=”dominik-vanyi-Mk2ls9UBO2E-unsplash.jpg” src=”” width=”300” height=”200” class=”mt-image-none” style=”“

Posted by: d.a.n at January 28, 2020 12:07 PM
Comment #453006

These are the same people who think they are the only people qualified to govern others.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 28, 2020 1:17 PM
Comment #453007

The person who published that post is either ignorant of how an img tag works, or they are purposely pushing the other columns off the screen.

Given the fact there are 2 photos now that violate the space of the other columns I have to assume they are acting with purpose.

For some reason these types of people will also insist they know what is best for all. I guess they get this misguided impression by driving dissent from the discussion.

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 28, 2020 1:22 PM
Comment #453008

Your column is still there but you won’t post in it because your space has been violated. Is it no longer a safe refuge for you from common sense? What a shame!

Employers don’t care who they injure or poison when they can get away with it. Ttump wants them to get away with it, and the confederacy of dunces are all going along with it.

Posted by: orteil at January 28, 2020 2:42 PM
Comment #453023
orteil wrote: Employers don’t care who they injure or poison when they can get away with it.
Not all of the time, but some of the time. Laws exist to discourage abuses and hold abusers accountable.
orteil wrote: Ttump wants them to get away with it,…
Such absolutes and hateful nonsense reveals irrational hatred (i.e. TDS) that afflicts many haters (many of which are Democrats and socialists).
orteil wrote: Ttump wants them to get away with it, and the confederacy of dunces are all going along with it.
That’s interesting coming from orteil and similar ilk (many Democrats), when it was Democrats, who: … and today, not much has changed, as many Democrats despicably pit U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants against each other for more electoral votes (based on the decennial census, which does not verify citizenship) as evidenced by the following 15 facts that reveal a common-thread about the true motives of many Democrats):
  • (01) because it gives Demcorats more electoral votes, which are based on population, and the decennial CENSUS does not verify citizenship status;
  • (02) because many Democrats fought against a citizenship question on the decennial CENSUS (removed by Obama in 2010);
  • (03) because many Democrats and most of the Main Stream Media ignore 2,000 homicides per year by criminal non-citizens;
  • (04) because many Democrats and most of the Main Stream Media lie about the cost of illegal immigration, which is estimated to be about $300 Billion (or more); a conservative estimate posted here daily shows it to be about $0.75 Billion per day ($274 Billion per year).
  • (05) because many Democrats are calling for open borders;
  • (06) because many Democrats are calling to abolish ICE;
  • (07) because many Democrats want another amenesty like the shamnesty of 1986;
  • (08) because many Democrats refuse legislation to (a)require employers to use eVerify (to verify eligibility for employment); (b)to stop the abuse of asylum laws; and (c)stop the abuse of birth-right citizenship (women from all over the world are booking vacations to the U.S. to give birth, so that their child will have U.S. citizenship);
  • (09) because many Democrats want to give illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses, and also automatically register them to vote; illegal voting by non-citizens is widespread in all states; many Democrats also fight any form of voter registration; also, 81% of voter fraud convictions are Democrats based on the Voter Fraud database [1979 to 2018];
  • (10) because many Democrats want more mayors like Libby Schaaf (Oakland, CA), who warns illegal immigrants (including criminal illegal immigrants) before an ICE raid to arrest criminal illegal immigrants; and then there are the 10 mayors listed above;
  • (11) because many Democrats want more sanctuary cities and states, like California, where Democrats have passed sanctuary city and sanctuary state laws that protect criminal illegal immigrants (such as an illegal immigrant by the name of Garcia Zarate murdered Kate Steinle (who had already been deported 5 times, and convicted 3 times for felonies for manufacturing narcotics), and was then acquitted for that murder, despite Zarate admitting to shooting the weapon that killed Kate Steinle, which should have been, at the very least, manslaughter);
  • (12) because many Democrats want to abolish the 2nd amendment, but many Democrats and many on the left call for restricting or eliminating 2nd Amendment rights, and say it is worth it “even if it saves only ONE life”, but hypocritically ignore about 2,000 homicides per year by criminal non-citizens (source: ; ; cost of illegal immigration (2019) );
  • (13) because many Democrats want (including Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, etc.) to pass new laws to allow criminals to vote (including murderers, rapists, child molestors, etc.), because they know that a vast majority of criminals will vote Democrat (because the Democrat party is essentially famous for pandering for votes, as they have also done by pandering to illegal immigrants). Is there no low that Democrats will not stoop to in order to acquire more power?
  • (14) because many Democrats are pandering for more votes by promising reparations for black people (including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, etc.). This is another example of Democrats using identity politics to acquire more votes. Never mind that it would be punishing people that have harmed nobody. It is yet another item in the long (and growing) list of things that Democrats will do for more votes and power. In fact, many Americans’ ancestors had nothing to do with slavery, because they immigrated to the U.S. after slavery was abolished. Reparations are unconstitutional, since the 13th Amendment states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States …”. Since no living Americans can be convicted of slavery, it would be unconstitutional to subject Americans to the economic “involuntary servitude” of paying reparations;
  • (15) because many Democrats in many sanctuary states, allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition, while U.S. citizens from other states must pay higher out-out-state tuition; Democrat-controlled New York state legislature passed a law giving financial assistance for college to illegal immigrants in U.S. high-schools; several sanctuary states passed legislation to allow illegal immigrants to attend tuition-free community colleges; again, the Democrats will do anything for more votes, and power; Democrats are pandering to illegal immigrants by promising all sorts of other free stuff and benefits;
  • NOTE: Non-criminal illegal immigrants merely looking for work are not the true villains. The truly despicable villains are many Democrats and similar ilk, who despicably pit U.S. citizens and illegal immigrants against each other for more votes, money, and power.
Therefore, as an independent, while I don’t care much for most politicians in any political party, Democrats are worse, and it is interesting and ironic whenever orteil and many Democrats try to claim the high moral ground, when Democrats have such a long history (155+ years) of despicable deeds? Feel free anytime to try to debunk any of the above and correstpoinding sources.
At any rate, many thanks to orteil for his words of wisdom, and being the gift that keeps on giving.
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Comment #453441

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Comment #453651

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