Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Massachusetts: Dying For Work Report

MASSCOSH and the Massachussetts state AFL-CIO have issued their annual Dying for Work in Massachusetts report.
This report has been compiled to highlight the fact that work continues to kill and maim workers in epidemic and alarming numbers. The saddest aspect to this loss in lives and limbs is that work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable.
The report noted that:
  • Work-related deaths in Massachusetts increased from 72 in 2004 to 78 in 2005. An estimated 700 workers died from occupational disease.

  • Massachusetts employers only paid an average of $14,065 for OSHA violations associated with the death of one or more workers in their workplaces in 2005. The average fine for a "serious" violation is only $1,034.

  • More than 350,000 public sector workers in Massachusetts are not protected by OSHA and federal safety regulations because the Legislature hasn’t adopted federal safety rules for the state and its cities and towns.

  • Of the 78 workers who died last year, 28 percent of them were immigrants who often work in the most dangerous industries and jobs, exploited by employers and given little or no training or protections. Only 17% of Massachusetts workers are immigrants (as of 2004.)
And what is to be done? The press release summarizes the report's recommendations:
The report calls for health and safety laws and regulations on the state and federal level to be strengthened, for job safety agencies to be given increased funding and enforcement powers, and criminal prosecution to be used in cases where employers recklessly endanger workers’ lives. The report also calls on the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a bill that would extend OSHA protections to public employees in Massachusetts, and a bill requiring temporary agencies to provide workers with safety equipment and information about the hazards they will encounter. At the worksite level, the report promotes comprehensive worksite safety programs that focus on identifying and eliminating hazards; and calls for safe staffing levels, work loads and working hours that protect against workplace injury, illness or death.