Workplace Safety Report Highlights Hazardous Conditions
Workplace safety is something we take for granted. We just assume that when we go to work the elevators in the building will run properly, that the electrical outlets are grounded and safe and that the air we breathe is clean and healthy. But for many people, even here in socially conscious California, the workplace can be full of dangers; some even fatal. And all because the decision makers decided to try to squeeze out some extra profit at the expense of workplace safety by cutting corners.
Workplace Safety Lapses Cataloged by Watchdog Group
Workplace safety is supposed to be the province of the state government’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA. Cal/OSHA’s mission is to protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in the workplace in California through its research and standards, enforcement, and consultation programs. But Cal/OSHA is not popular with the big business interests that donate heavily to political campaigns. So Cal/OSHA is woefully underfunded and understaffed.
To counter the lapses in workplace safety accountability here, my colleague Fran Schreiberg, partner Denise Abrams and others started a watchdog group called WorkSafe. Fran, who is Kazan Law of Counsel, represents us at WorkSafe. She recently told us that WorkSafe’s annual report, called “Dying at Work”, cataloging California workplace fatalities and injuries, has just been published. Because of the difficulty of obtaining data about laborers, especially undocumented laborers, who were killed or injured on the job, there is a necessary time lag in WorkSafe’s annual report. This year’s report presents final statistics for 2013 and some data for 2014.
Every year, the release of this report is a sobering reminder of the real consequences of unabated hazards and employer defiance, of the prioritizing of profit over the people whose labor makes it possible.
Workplace Safety Report Fatality Findings
The following list are some of the shocking findings and workplace safety problems facing California:
- A total of 396 California workers died on the job in 2013. This is believed to be an undercount because it does not include undocumented workers and those who will die years later from workplace exposure to hazards like asbestos
- Transportation incidents account for the largest number of fatalities at 35%
- Exposure to harmful substances accounts for 10%
- Falls, slips and trips account for 16%
- Men account for 92% and women 8% of all fatalities
- Workers between the ages of 35 and 54 account for about 50% of all fatalities
- Workers identified as Hispanic were 49% of the total, white made up 41% of those killed on the job, while those identified as black constituted 4% and those identified as Asian comprised 5%
Workplace Safety Problems Underreported
Workplace safety often is underreported according to a new UCLA labor study. The research found that while 75% of workers sought medical treatment for their injuries, only 8% filed a workers compensation claim. Reasons for not filing a claim included:
- Workers were afraid of losing their jobs
- Workers did not want to miss work
- Employers reacted negatively when they learned about workers’ injuries
- Employers did not provide workers’ compensation forms
- Workplace Safety Report Features Mesothelioma Survivor
Workplace safety neglect resulted in the asbestos exposure of Kazan Law client Paul Zygielbaum. Paul was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a fatal cancer of cells lining vital organs resulting from asbestos exposure. Miraculously, he has survived 12 years and is still going strong. Most mesothelioma patients usually live only for one to two years following diagnosis. Paul is using his time now as an activist advocating for workplace safety and fighting the industry that caused his disease. We are pleased that his story was featured in the new workplace safety report.