Not only do jobs take the best years of our lives, in some cases they take the entire life.
With so many regulations, I am surprised so many are hurt. I imagine those deaths and injuries happen more in unregulated or harsh countries. I wonder how much money would be saved if companies were more safe.
Excellent post, Rich. It's important that studies show a link between safety and productivity, which means that better disciplined and improved processes produce both safer environments and better manufacturing efficiency. With the glut of processing power and networking solutions in the newest generation of controllers, integrated safety should finally become more and more commonplace. At least among the companies that are executing at the highest levels.
I have to agree with Nadine: in some industries, big companies and big PR dollars are masking big safety problems. And some aren't doing a good job at either safety or masking their problems: witness PG&E's San Bruno, California residential natural gas pipeline explosion in 2010 that killed several residents (not workers), due primarily to aging, unrepaired infrastructure. A state audit has found that some of the money set aside for the repairs that weren't done was illegally diverted into executive bonuses. Yet PG&E wants residents to pay for the repairs by raising rates.
Yes and no. Some industries have made great progress, especially but not only in the US, but several other old and new industries are still very dangerous for workers.
Today, instead of loosing an arm, workers are more likely to develop slow cancers or other diseases.
I recently listened to an interview with activist in Texas protesting today for worker safety in refineries. The tar-sands oil that is piped to the US from Canada requires a very intensive process that, according to the interview, endangers workers. Here in San Francisco, Chevron is still in the news since the explosion last August. There is lots finger pointing between workers and management. The bottom line is that something wasn't safe in a very populated area.
I'm not sure if new industries have processes that are safer or if the PR professionals are more adept at mitigating any fall out or exposure.
Rich, the emphasis seems to be working, at least in the West. The US has not had a fatal passenger aircraft crash since 2009, I believe. Although there have been some mine accidents in the last few years, they have been newsworthy precisely because they have been rare.
On the manufacturing side, safety is way up. This is why the issues experienced by some large companies, such as Apple, who do lots of manufacturing in China, have been brought to the fore. Interestingly, the employees at Foxconn resisted having their hours cut. One of the issues for safety, and employee health in general, is where they are coming from. Many employees in the developing world are actually in improved conditions at places like a Foxconn factory, even though we would not be satisfied with it. Safety may not be first on their list. That is why, as you point out, the impetus needs to be with upper management, often driven by customers.
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