Almost 2 million lives lost annually to workplace exposures

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
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Photo: World Health Organization

Geneva, Switzerland — Work-related injuries and illnesses resulted in 1.9 million worker deaths worldwide in 2016, according to estimates recently released by the World Health Organization and International Labor Organization.

In a report issued Sept. 17, the organizations say the majority of the deaths were linked to cardiovascular or respiratory diseases. Workplace injuries accounted for 19% of the deaths, or around 360,000.

“It’s shocking to see so many people literally being killed by their jobs,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press release. “Our report is a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers by honoring their commitments to provide universal coverage of occupational health and safety services.”

WHO and ILO looked at 19 workplace risk factors, including long working hours and exposure to air pollution and noise, as well as ergonomic risk factors. Working long hours contributed to an estimated 750,000 deaths. Exposure to air pollution (i.e., particulate matter, fumes or gases) was linked to 450,000 deaths.

“These estimates provide important information on the work-related burden of disease,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in the release, “and this information can help to shape policies and practices to create healthier and safer workplaces. Governments, employers and workers can all take actions to reduce exposure to risk factors at the workplace. Risk factors can also be reduced or eliminated through changes in work patterns and systems. As a last resort, personal protective equipment can also help to protect workers whose jobs mean they cannot avoid exposure.”


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Annual DOL OIG report outlines challenges for OSHA, MSHA

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Photo: Department of Labor Office of Inspector General
First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Washington — The COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated” the challenges for OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to use their resources to protect the safety and health of workers, according to the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

In 2020 DOL Top Management and Performance Challenges, an annual report released Nov. 16, DOL OIG notes that the number of whistleblower complaints has increased during the pandemic while full-time staffing in the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program has decreased.

MSHA, meanwhile, suspended five of its enforcement activities, including its “accident reduction program,” as of May. The agency also reduced its work in 13 areas, including mine emergency operations, but continued 15 activities at full capacity, including regular safety and health inspections and fatal incident investigations.

“MSHA needs to do more to address the potential backlog of suspended and reduced enforcement activities resulting from the pandemic and develop a plan to manage the backlog once full operations resume,” the report states. “Further, MSHA needs to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks at mines and use that information to determine whether to issue an emergency temporary standard related to the pandemic.”

The report also highlights OSHA’s difficulties in verifying that employers have abated hazards at general industry and construction worksites.

“OSHA needs to complete its initiatives to improve employer reporting of severe injuries and illnesses and enhance staff training on abatement verification, especially of smaller and transient construction employers,” DOL OIG states.

Other challenges noted in the report:

  • A 25-year high in black lung cases and the need to develop strategies to address it. MSHA is studying its August 2014 coal dust rule, but this analysis likely will take a decade or more to be completed, DOL OIG states.
  • Powered-haulage incidents, which accounted for nearly half of mining fatalities in 2017 and 2018. MSHA launched an initiative on the topic in 2018 that includes a website, videos, safety materials and mine-site visits.
  • Both agencies are challenged on how to regulate respirable crystalline silica. As noted in another report released the same day, OSHA and MSHA have different permissible exposure limits.

OSHA revised its National Emphasis Program on respirable silica in February and issued a revised directive for inspection procedures. DOL OIG notes that the agency conducted a webinar for inspectors on how to inspect for silica violations and enforce “various provisions of the new standards.”

“OIG is currently performing an audit to determine the extent OSHA has protected workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica,” the report states.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Researchers study link between worker safety, business longevity

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Photo: CGinspiration/iStockphoto

Corvallis, OR — Future safety regulations need to reward employer innovation that improves both worker safety and a business’s likelihood of survival, researchers say after finding that “organizations that do not provide a safe workplace gain an economic advantage over those that do.”

An international team, led by researchers from Oregon State University, looked at short- and long-term “survival” – defined as ongoing operations, even after a change in ownership – of more than 100,000 Oregon-based organizations over a 25-year period. The team gauged whether a company provided a safe workplace by reviewing its history of disabling claims, using data provided by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

An international team of researchers looked at short- and long-term “survival” – defined as ongoing operations, even after a change in ownership – of more than 100,000 Oregon-based organizations over a 25-year period. The team gauged whether a company provided a safe workplace by reviewing its history of disabling claims, using data provided by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Results showed that organizations with worker injury claims survived up to 56% longer than organizations with no claims. Further, companies with at least 100 employees and claims filed against them were more likely to survive compared with similar-sized companies without claims.

Additionally, high claims costs were more likely to harm the survival of younger or smaller companies, or companies that are growing quickly. For this reason, the researchers said, those companies have a greater incentive to protect their workforce, but likely fewer resources to do so.

“The goal of improving the longevity of a business conflicts with the goal of protecting the workforce,” researcher Anthony Veltri, associate professor of public health and human sciences as OSU, said in a May 13 press release.

“When it’s cheaper to pay nominal fines for violating workplace regulations than to provide safe workplaces, that indicates current safety regulations are not enough to protect workers,” the researchers concluded.

The study was published online May 5 in the journal Management Science.