OSHA, it seems, is fixated on death – a real and grave concern. However, my experience as a safety professional tells a different story. Being in the field conducting construction safety audits, my prospective is decidedly different. In the past 18 months I have been involved with three on-site related deaths. Each of these deaths was a terrific loss and a personal tragedy for families, loved ones and co-workers. During these same 18 months I have seen numerous career ending injuries that have resulted in a string of painful surgeries with months in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation centers, while leaving the injured worker with life-long chronic pain.
In each OSHA training class there is a segment on Workers Compensation. Many attendees are surprised when they learn that if they are injured at work and cannot return to work, they must
wait two weeks before they can draw Workers Compensation. Additionally, many are troubled when they find out that Workers Compensation pays only 66% of what their 40-hour paycheck
provides if they have followed their company’s safety rules. If it’s determined that the worker did not follow their safety training, then Workers Compensation can deduct up to 15% of their 40-hour paycheck, leaving them with 51% of what they would make in 40-hours. Aside from the physical and emotional pain these workers suffer, they often have to deal with the immediate and long-term financial pain that their injuries bring. Often the hardest hit by these injuries are the younger workers with families. Some who live pay check to pay check can ill afford the reduced income resulting from an injury. The uncertainties of how the family will survive and provide for itself bring additional fears and worries to the injured and their extended families.
I would ask you, the next time you’re tempted to do something you know is unsafe, stop and think about what a career-ending accident would mean to you and those that count on you.
OSHA 1926 Outreach Instructor