Why is workplace health & safety legislation important?

Written by mary anne simpson
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Why is workplace health & safety legislation important?
Health and safety laws protect workers from serious injuries and death. (Texas Oil Derrick image by bawinner from Fotolia.com)

Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and the subsequent creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace fatalities have reduced 60 per cent and occupational injury and illness has declined 40 per cent, according to a 2006 OSHA publication.


In 1970, Congress faced rampant complaints of workers' injuries, deaths and illnesses. Congress found that health and safety risks in the workplace imposed a burden on interstate commerce due to lost production, wage loss, medical expenses and disability compensation benefits.


Aside from the personal losses incurred by workplace injuries and deaths, their direct cost to business alone cost nearly £0.6 billion per week, according to August 2010 OSHA estimates. Direct costs include workers' compensation benefits, medical payments and legal expenses. Businesses also incur indirect costs for training replacement workers, implementing corrective safety measures, production loss and accident investigations, according to the OSHA website.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2009 preliminary report "Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries" reflects some hopeful signs for reducing work-related fatal accidents. Occupational fatalities decreased in most industries during 2009, with the exception of building and grounds cleaning and maintenance jobs. The rate of workplace fatalities was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time employees in 2009, compared to 3.7 per 100,000 in 2008.


The decrease in work-related fatalities for 2009 is noteworthy, but economic factors played a major role in that decline, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics press release issued on August 19, 2010.

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