Most people would assume that states with a high rate of fatal workplace injuries would also have a high rate of non-fatal workplace injuries as well. Recently, however, a study funded by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace found that the opposite was true. The rate of fatal workplace injuries and the rate of non-fatal workplace injuries actually have an inverse relationship.
Our Chicago work accident lawyers know that even one workplace fatality is too many. It is important, therefore, to understand why an inverse relationship exists between a high rate of non-fatal work injuries and a low rate of non-fatal work accidents. Understanding this information can help to reduce the number of people who die on the job, which will make worksites safer for everyone.
Understanding the Link Between a High Fatality Rate and a Low Rate of Non-Fatal Injuries
Researchers who conducted the study for the RAND Center were surprised at first by the outcome of their review of workplace injuries and deaths among the different states. After all, if the jobs in one state are more dangerous and cause more injuries, it would seem obvious to assume that more workers would also die when doing those jobs.
However, there is one potential explanation that makes sense of the data reviewed by researchers. The best explanation for the inverse relationship is that states with better workers' compensation benefits and with more worker protection laws tend to be states where more workers report workplace injuries and where fewer workers die.
When a state has strong worker protection laws and good workers' compensation benefits, workers are more likely to report even minor workplace injuries. There is also less likely to be pressure on worksites or from employers discouraging workers from taking advantage of their workers' compensation benefits. As such, these states with strong protections for workers may have what appears to be a higher rate of non-fatal injuries. In reality, though, more injuries may simply be reported in these states because of better laws and protections.
In states that place a premium on worker safety, employers are also more likely to follow OSHA guidelines and to follow worker safety laws. Minor injuries that are reported can lead to safety improvements and better enforcement of worker protection laws can encourage employers to take worker safety seriously. This can result in fewer deaths. Thus, the state will have more reported non-fatal workplace injuries and fewer workplace fatalities.
In states where worker protection is not taken as seriously or where the workers' compensation laws are not as favorable to workers, fewer injured employees may report when they get hurt on the job. Worksites in these areas will tend to be less safe, and thus more workers may die while on the job. This accounts for the low non-fatal workplace injury rates and the high death toll.
The fact that southern states tend to be the areas where more fatalities and fewer non-fatal injuries are reported also supports this theory. Many of the southern states have fewer protections for workers, less favorable workers' compensation benefits, and fewer unions. Thus, these are clear examples of states where workers may be less likely to report an injury and yet more likely to die on the job.
The outcome of this study thus reinforces the idea that having strong worker protection laws and making sure those laws are enforced is the best way to lower the number of on-the-job injuries.
If you were injured on the job, contact Coplan & Crane at 800-394-6002 or visit our Oak Park office.