Labor Day tradition: Worker health and safety yearbook

The fourth edition of “The Year in US Occupational Health & Safety: Fall 2014 – Summer 2015” was released today, Labor Day 2015. The yearbook recaps key policy changes and research on worker safety and health at the federal, state, and local levels. Our goal is for the report to be a resource for activists, researchers, regulators and anyone else who wants to refresh their memory about the highlights in the previous 12 months on worker health and safety topics. I wrote this fourth edition of the yearbook with my colleagues from The Pump Handle. Kim Krisberg is the report’s co-author, and Liz Borkowski provided editorial assistance.

“The Year in US Occupational Health & Safety: Fall 2014 – Summer 2015” is divided into four sections: Significant events at the federal level, happenings in state and local agencies, new research published by academics and organizations, and national news coverage. Here’s a snapshot of what you’ll see in the report:

The Federal Government: The international Ebola outbreak, as well as the two nurses in Texas who were infected with the virus, galvanized health care workers to demand better protection from their employers and more effective leadership from government officials. OSHA implemented a new requirement for employers to report to the agency incidents that involve an amputation, eye loss, or hospitalization of a worker, while MSHA adopted a rule requiring proximity detection devices on certain coal mining machines.

State and Local Activities: Paid sick leave, as well as labor protections for public sector, retail, and temporary workers were addressed in some states and localities. OHS advocates launched the US Worker Fatality Database, an open access and near-time source of incident-specific data which includes the victim’s and employer’s names. Local and regional reporters covered worker safety topics, such as the fatalities at DuPont’s La Porte, TX, facility.

New Research: Papers published in the peer-reviewed literature provided insight into the diversity and complexity of workplace hazards. Research on work-related respiratory diseases and musculoskeletal disorders were especially prominent. Policy experts issued reports on workplace hazards faced by nurses, temporary workers and those working in the recycling industry. An appendix lists our top picks for papers published over the last 12 months in the peer-reviewed literature.

National News Coverage: One of the highlights from the previous 12 months was the exceptional national reporting by journalists on worker health and safety topics. We devote a full section of the report to the most influential and unique stories, such as ProPublica’s “Insult to Injury” series and The New York Times investigation into labor practices at nail salons.

"The Year in US Occupational Health & Safety" covers a lot, but it is not exhaustive. Kim and I made some tough decisions about what to include and what to omit. We will write posts this week that will recap each section of the report. We hope you will download the report and we invite you to add a comment to our posts with your own ideas about notable worker health and safety events over the past 12 months.

P.S. The previous year's reports are available here.


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