Recently, the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace funded a study to consider the relationship between the rate of workplace fatal injuries and the rate of workplace nonfatal injuries. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, showed a surprising inverse link between low nonfatal injury rates and high fatality rates.
Our Atlanta work injury attorneys know that there are many factors that affect how safe workplaces are and whether injuries or deaths are likely to occur. This new RAND Center study helps to shed more light on why workplace injuries and fatalities are occurring and on what can be done to reduce the number of workers’ hurt or killed at work.
New Study Reveals Info on Workplace Injury/Workplace Fatality Rates
It may be natural to assume that an area with a high rate of workplace fatalities would also have a high rate of non-fatal injuries and vice versa. After all, employers are more likely to be killed in fields and workplaces where dangerous conditions exist. These unsafe and dangerous workplaces should also be more likely to cause nonfatal injury since the unsafe conditions that lead to the deaths can also harm workers in other ways.
However, the reality shows that the opposite is true. States with the highest number of non-fatal injuries tended to have low fatality rates. States with a lower number of non-fatal injury rates, on the other hand, had a higher rate of workplace death. This inverse relationship surprised the lead author of the study who indicated that few would have believed an inverse relationship between injuries and fatalities prior to the study.
One possible explanation that is offered for why more people are dying in areas where fewer people are being injured is that better workers’ compensation benefits in these areas both protect workers and encourage people to report workplace injuries. In other words, you might live in a state where worker protections are taken very seriously and where workers’ compensation laws provide comprehensive benefits if you get hurt.
In a state that takes worker protection seriously, your employer probably goes the extra mile to try to prevent injury from occurring. As a result, worker deaths are less common. Yet, workers who do get hurt will file claims to take advantage of the excellent benefits available under the law. Thus, results a high rate of reported injuries but a low death rate.
Other evidence from the study seems to confirm that tougher worker protection laws can make a big difference in workplace injuries and deaths. For example, states with the lowest nonfatal injury rates and highest fatality rates tended to include Southern States that have lower workers’ comp benefits; fewer unions and lower wages.
Work conditions, in other words, were not as good in these states and workers’ were less protected. These workers may die in higher numbers due to the more widespread disregard for worker safety issues. Yet, because the laws aren’t in their favor, they may not report every injury that occurs on the job. This results in a high fatality rate but a low rate of nonfatal injuries reported.
Protecting Workers From Injury and Death
Ultimately, the results of this study seem to emphasize a point that has been made time and again: taking worker safety seriously really can make a difference in reducing the number of workplace fatalities. Employers need to have sufficient incentive to protect workers, and having tough worker protection laws and a strong workers’ compensation system can provide that incentive.
If you were the victim of a work accident in Atlanta, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation call 1-404-303-7770 today.
Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Claims: Cell Phone & Car Crashes, Jan. 24, 2013, Atlanta Work Injury Lawyer Blog