The Factors that Improve the Labor Safety

I. Introduction

Americans have always been seeking for justice and rights’ protection. This concerned much the sphere of work. Previous centuries did not boast of safe and healthy working conditions, and many people suffered from that. Moreover, many workers died, received injuries or experienced their freedom entrapment.

Fortunately, in the past century, the workers’ safety has been improved to a whole different level. The death ratio during working hours has been lowered. Besides, due to the economical growth of starting in the past century, employers have contributed much into their inferiors’ safety.  Today the changes in working conditions are evident, and workers do not have to be worried concerning their personal safety. Of course, this not always refers to moral issues, but it is clear, that it is not that dangerous, or harmful, to be an average American worker.

Needless to say, that the changes in working conditions in America have been triggered off by particular factors. These factors and reasons for labor conditions improvement will be thoroughly investigated in the paper. The elements of improvement of the safety level of labor market are on the core of the research.

II. Technology, Public Health, Social Wealth and other Factors
  1. The Affect of Technology

Technology has actively been developing during last centuries. Due to the emergence of various machines, industrial robots, video-display terminals, computer-controlled machine tools, etc., it has become easier to work and even enjoy the process. Technological contributions prevent workers from injuries and professional illnesses reduce the risk of deaths and disablement.

To add more, technology is known to have transformed the workplace. For instance, new machinery guards protect workers from gears, pulleys and drive belts.  Later, when electricity began to be used in labor, electric power made it possible for machinery to run with individual motors, thus helping people to rule the process of production.  In other words, dangerous networks of belts that were driven by a central engine were no longer in use.

Nowadays, technology is an integral part of any industry. Technological innovations promote efficient mass goods production and makes the workers’ tasks easier. Still, according to Robert Wilkinson “manual work remains an important part of agriculture as some situations require the “hand tool” that only humans can provide” (2014).

  1. Production Progress

Nowadays people face less chances of getting injured during working hours, for they work with the help of machines. People are not physically present during the working process, but they regulate the process by means of the machine. Still, machine guarding challenges the working safety. For example, machine parts have a potential of causing such injuries as crushed fingers, amputations, burns, and even blindness.

Nevertheless, in order to help the situation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration has worked out particular rules and standards that regulate the process of machine guarding.  It helps workers to avoid injuries during machine operation. Thus, in any industry there is a safeguard in safety working conditions control. This person controls the way people work with machines. Their duty is also to report on various injuries and work at eliminating them. Thus, operating machines instead of being physically present does not always reduce all the chances of getting injured during the working process.

  1. Machines Replacing Labor

It must be noted, that the 19th century has become a turning point for almost every industry and labor safety, as well. The thing is that industrial revolution of the 19th century has contributed much into the workers’ routine.  Hand production began to be substituted by machinery work. On the one hand this made the work more productive and easy. On the other hand, industrial revolution eliminated a large part of the hand work from the labor market.

Machines have become a necessary part of any production. Of course, this lessens the risk of working traumatism and gives more opportunities for labor safety. For instance, instead of working on the fields with hands, people just use combines and thus, avoid needles injuries. Still, industrial revolution has not only raised productivity, but it also made workers face unsafe working conditions. The employers were known to be anxious about bringing machines to their factories, but they did not care much about workers’ safety. The thing is that dangerous parts of machines were not fenced off. Thus, laborers could easily be injured and even deprived of body parts. Machines were not equipped with regard to the fact that people are to work with them. For instance, working at textile mill was rather hazardous, for very often workers had to reach their hands over the machine, risking to be injured. Besides, hired children were to get under the machines in order to retrieve cotton bids. Piercers had to step onto the machines in order to tie threads. This also often led to fatalities or traumas.

Today, of course, the situation has changed much. Modern machines are produced for making work easier and safer. Workers are more protected from injuries and can perform their job easily. The only problem remains that such machines can force human labor out, for in many cases the work is done without human help (garment, instruments, chocolate and other production).

  1. Textile Production

Textile production is one of the oldest productions and it has also undergone many changes throughout centuries. Originally being a hand craft, with time textile production was accomplished with a help of machines. Sewing machines, cotton gins and other technological achievements partly eliminated human hands, but still did not make production process completely safe.

With time the machines became larger and more complicated. “as workers had to cope with mechanization and the demand for increasing productivity, work stress, largely unrecognized or ignored, exerted an increasing influence on their well-being” (Warshaw, 2011). Thus, only due to proper machine maintenance and installation of guards and fences helped to decrease the level of working injuries.

Today the situation is much better, due to such inventions as local exhaust ventilation, temperature control, personal protective equipment and protective closing. Today textile workers experience fewer hazards at working places. Besides, a higher level of self safety control is reached, for special training has been implemented. Thus, textile production development has brought much benefit to the society, but still the working process should be thoroughly supervised in order to avoid occupational traumatism and fatalities.

  1. Public Health

Health risks are present in places of work. Occupational accidents are thought to be rather dangerous, and workers should keep in mind to take care of their own health. Thus, the sphere of public health is also connected with the labor safety and aims at eliminating the risks. The Institute of Medicine defines the mission of public health as “fulfilling society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy(2014). Consequently, its purpose is to organize favorable conditions for health safety at working places, as well.

Additionally, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has worked out ten major public health achievements. Among them are safer workplaces. As a result, “severe injuries and deaths related to mining, manufacturing, construction, and transportation have decreased; since 1980, safer workplaces have resulted in a reduction of approximately 40% in the rate of fatal occupational injuries”(2014) .

It is important to note, that since 1872 the public health control is performed by the American Public Health Association. Its mission is to improve health of American residents, including labor safety conditions. It works at adoption of scientific advancement in public health and helps to perform public education concerning health maintenance.

  1. Biotechnology in Occupational Injuries

Public health is maintained by tetanus vaccination of workers. For many workers can be exposed to various injuries, especially open-wounded ones, it is necessary that they undergo tetanus vaccination. This especially concerns road, industrial and agricultural workers. They face occupational risks, including tetanus, lockjaw disease, which is very dangerous and can bring fatal results. It is characterized as a serious illness caused by the bacteria clostridium letani that penetrates the body by way of a puncture, open wound, or a cut. Thus, people working in facilities management, animal research or health care circles should be aware of this fact and report about any injuries to special services. People, who work in animal care organizations should stick to the tetanus routine immunization, for they may be easily become infected by animal bites and puncture wounds. According to the Center of Disease Control, Health Care Persons: “are at risk for exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases. Employers and HCP have a shared responsibility to prevent occupationally acquired infections and avoid causing harm to patients by taking reasonable precautions to prevent transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases” (2011).

It is important to note, that injured persons should have a tetanus vaccination in order to prevent health problems and lethal outcome, as well. Since the tetanus bacteria leads to severe muscular spasms, 1 of 10 injured persons dies. Thus, the above mentioned facts prove that labor safety is actively promoted nowadays and people are protected from dangerous diseases (such as tetanus disease). Consequently, the impact of biotechnology is one more factor that produces labor safety improvement in the USA.

  1. Occupational Safety and Health Act

The next factor that has much improved safety of labor market is Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH act). The act was signed in 1970 by the president Richard M. Nixon. This is a primary federal law that establishes the standards of occupational safety and workers protection. If to come to think of it, the act regulates that the employers arrange safe labor conditions for their workers. According to it, employers should inform the workers about potential danger, health and safety rules of their industry. Besides, their duty is to train the workers and to make records of working injuries that occur during the working hours. According to the OSH act Guide, “there is a general duty on employers to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers” (2011). 

OSH act provides workers with labor rights, such as the right to participate, to know, to refuse work and to stop work. The act covers workers, supervisors, employers and workplace. Besides, it is applied to workplace owners, constructors and equipment suppliers. Moreover, due to OSH act, the workers duties are “take every reasonable precaution to protect the worker’s own occupational health and safety”, “cooperate with the employer and with the other workers”, “wear or use such individual protective equipment as is required”, “comply with this Act and the regulations” (Government of PEI, 2014).

Without any doubt, OSH act implementing has changed the working conditions much during the last century. Though the research in this sphere is known to be rather recent, it was created due to workers complaints concerning labor conditions after the rise of industrial revolution. Thus, today it functions and regulates one of the most important spheres of social and industrial life.

  1. Government Health Institutions

One more factor of labor market improvement is the work of government health institutions. The government regulates the working conditions of the Americans through such institutions as National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Besides, the treatment is done in assistance of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and disease prevention is accomplished through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, the most important contributors to safe working conditions improvement are NIOSH and OSHA. The function of the first institution is to provide national and world leadership in preventing labor illnesses and injuries. It oranges research programs and gives recommendations to the members of the labor market concerning preventing working injuries. “NIOSH also supports research to predict, prevent, and address emerging problems that arise from dramatic changes in the 21st Century workplace and workforce”(2011). The Institute was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The function of Occupational Safety and Health Administration is to ensure the appropriate working conditions by establishing and realizing safety standards, providing training and education in this sphere. It is a part of US Department of Labor. Since 1971 the administration has developed numerous training projects and programs in workers’ health care.

Thus, the US government has contributed much into the working conditions safety development during the last century. Nowadays, workers face difficulties in the labor market. Nevertheless, the working conditions seem to the on a high level, especially comparing with the past centuries, when people were to work without any safety insurance. Moreover, thanks to health institution assistance efficient and timely treatment of injured workers is performed.

  1. Social Wealth

Social wealth is considered to be the forms of wealth that are neither private, nor public property. These are social forms of properties that belong to no one, and at the same time belong to everyone. For instance, this is natural wealth, natural resources, or human wealth that is created by communities. Besides, social wealth concerns voluntary caring of the weak or disabled people that is contributing into the social well-being.

It must be noted, that since the American economy began to exercise successful growth, working conditions have been improved, as well. This can be explained by the fact that wealthy people became eager to invest in their industries and enforce labor safety. First of all, rich people have more opportunities to create new working places. When they hire workers, they also face a problem of working conditions control. Capitalism has played a big role in changing working conditions for the work class. Of course, not all the employers took care of their workers’ safety and did not invest much into this sphere. Still, all the changes that have been done in order to promote occupational safety appeared due to the investments of the wealthy people. Thus, developing working conditions meant buying new technological equipment and special clothing, etc. The wealthy stratum of society could afford doing that.

Thus, it may be concluded that due to the economical growth people now have better opportunities to work safely. When there is enough financial support, workers are able to feel safe about their workplaces. Similarly, the employers may be sure that their factories work properly and produce high results.

  1. Media Attention

The issues of safety of the labor market are often highly scrutinized by the mass media. Media tends to pay much attention to any disastrous workplace accidents that occur in the labor market. The role of mass media is vital in this sphere. It helps to maintain working safety awareness within thy society. Besides, mass media promotes preventive measures concerning limiting the risks of labor injuries.

It is evident, that during last years the influence of mass media has developed drastically. Media activities of various labor organizations have contributed much into citizens’ awareness of the situation of safety in the labor market. By means of radio stations, magazines, newspapers, TV and the Internet the situation of labor market conditions is exposed. 

In addition, media can give pressures various industries and companies, when exposes accidents of labor safety violations. Thus, companies’ reputation undergoes public scrutiny and becomes widely criticized. Still, very often working conditions and workplace safety is very often ignored in comparison to other spheres of social life. One of such cases happened in 2010, when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill took place. The news ran about environmental problems that are triggered by the spill. However, the news reports did not throw light upon the catastrophe itself. The problem was that media coverage was rather poor, and the facts of workers injuries were not discovered. The truth was that eleven workers died and seventeen were seriously injured. Consequently, the National Opinion Research Center informed that “Workplace safety is too often ignored or accidents taken for granted” (Between Disasters, 2014).

  1. Additional Factors

There exist some more factors that made working conditions better. Among them are industry regulation and workers' compensation. Besides, dismantling law doctrines concerning workers protection become expensive for employers, but it convinced them to manage workplace safety successfully and realize their responsibility for workers’ health. 

Besides, lifting workers’ demands towards their working places has also contributed much into safety improvement. Dr. Martin Luther once set particular standards of working conditions. He said: “Our needs are identical with labor's needs-decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community” (Brief History, 2014). Labor unions have played an important role in safety development, as well.

It is important to note, that since the bulk of employees has become interested in their own labor safety, special training has been developed during the last century. According to Charles Blakely, “educational safety programs focus on increasing peoples’ knowledge by giving them a background on theories, principles and techniques for improving their future problem-solving abilities” (2014). This means that by acquiring necessary knowledge workers become competent in safety regulation on their working places. As a result, they are able to manage working tasks and stay careful in contacting with machines, chemical agents and various equipment depending on their occupation.

To say more, safety training programs are one more factor of safety working conditions improvement. It helps workers to apply the gained knowledge in practice. Blakely says: “Although employers never provide prospective employees the average annual death risk or chance of acquiring an injury, when workers begin a job they have some general idea of the risks they face. However, once they gain experience on the job, their risk perception changes” (2014).

  1. Specific Industries

Such specific industries as mining and construction have been the most dangerous ones during the history. Nowadays their status improved much, for more attention is paid to the safety of workers. Due to numerous hazards workers face, many changes have been implemented in the given industries since the 20th century. Thus, modern mining and construction have become much safer than many decades before. All the changes are thoroughly considered in the next two sub-chapters.

  1. Mining

Mining industry has always been one of the most dangerous works of any time. Nowadays underground mining is fast-changing. Miners are known to work in a critical and complex environment. They cooperate with emergency responders and mine safety inspectors who are highly skilled in order to provide safe conditions of work for miners. Mining industry was started by early colonists, who decently searched for metals. Thus, after settling, silver, copper, iron, tin and other metals began to be found. Still, the mining industry of that time was not profitable enough. From the year 1628, when metal was found in Massachusetts, mining has become an integral part of industrial world.

It goes without saying that in those times occupational safety was not much developed. Very often miners died or got injured. Starting from the 20th century the situation in mines in the USA began to improve, but still numerous tragedies happened. According to the Mining Research by NIOSH (table 2), every 10 year nearly 10 explosions took place in American mines.  Fortunately, the 21st century is characterized by the highest level of occupational safety in mining industry. It counts less than 5 explosions in 10 years.

If to come to think of it, these significant improvements were stimulated by particular health and safety advancements. For instance, in 1910, electrically powered ventilation fan were introduced. This lowered the level of suffocation deaths in mines. Two years later self-contained breathing devices for mine rescue began to be used. Thus, the chances for miners rescue increased. Till the year 1920 electric cap lamps were produced, so that miners could easily handle with the work without additional light. The 30s were characterized by invention of rock dusting (for explosion reducing) and coal loading machines. During the next ten years scientist introduced sound-powered communication, and this contributed much into occupational safety improvement. Miners were now able to communicate and be informed about any dangers during their working time.

Starting from 1950s mining industry began to be constantly improved. Such inventions as machine mounted monitors, methane drainages, remote machine control, cabs and canopies, warning systems, water spray technologies made miners’ working places much safer. Besides, self-contained self-rescuers, advanced noise controllers, wireless communication were one more step to the high level of occupational safety.

To say more, after NIOSH has been created, much force was put into safety training and occupational safety research. For example, emergency command center training stimulator was released in 2002. Moreover, new safety criteria and rock dust standards were implemented. Scientists have organized human factors research, and this improved health and safety behavior of workers.

Still, mining industry remains to be one of the most dangerous. Today the US mining sector has one of the highest fatality levels among other industries in the country. Because of incidents during mining operation miners get injured and die. Besides, workers encounter various professional diseased due to the impact of gases, dust, noise, chemicals, high temperatures and other factors. The NIOSH Mining Program invested much into mining industry and safety conditions. Its mission is to conduct researches in order to eliminate occupational diseases risks and to avoid fatalities during the working process. It works in several areas: respiratory disease prevention, noise-induced hearing loss prevention, cumulative musculoskeletal and traumatic injury prevention, mine disaster control and surveillance training.

Thus, mining industry will always be in need of intensive control, for it is known to be one of the most dangerous industries in the world. It is important to work at finding more effective ways of avoiding fatalities, but still it is impossible to get rid of all of the danger. Every miner should be aware of the difficulties he faces underground and be ready not only to help himself, but also to help his colleagues. 

  1. Construction

Construction is one of the oldest industries of the world. People learned how to build houses as soon as they appeared on the earth, starting from the early days of civilization. American construction industry is highly developed today, but it still faces numerous difficulties. Since construction deals with residential construction, roadway paving, bridge erection, excavations, and painting jobs it presupposes works at height, noise and dust pollution, electricity contacts. All these factors have impact on occupational safety and working conditions. In addition, in 2011 construction is considered to have more fatalities that mining industry (table 1).

In past years the work of constructors was considered to be dirty, unethical, dangerous and poorly paid. Nowadays, construction industry has changed much, and working conditions improved, as well. Due to the activity of OSHA, the industry began to experience changes. Still, OSHA reports about the so-called “Fatal Four”, that is the four main fatalities of construction industry. They are falls (36% of total deaths in construction in 2012), struck by object – 10%, electrocutions – 9% and caught-in – 2%. Thus, these cases are the main challenge for constructors and must be thoroughly controlled.

Thus, OSHA has become the main contributor to workplace safety in construction. According to its reports, “since 1970, workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent” (Commonly Used Statistics, 2014). Besides, due to OSHA activities, the number of deaths during working hours per day lessened. In 1970 nearly 38 workers died at work every day, but in 2012 the number is already 12 persons. In addition, OSHA concludes that working injuries and illnesses in 1972 counted 10.7 cases per 100 workers, but in 2011 the number is 3.5 per 100 workers. Thus, it is evident, that working safety has improved much during the end of the past century.

The latest contributions into workplace safety for constructors were done by OSHA. They are: scaffolding equipment improvement, fall protection systems invention, ladder use instruction, intensive trenching and cranes work instructing, self-protection training, etc. Further improving of construction safety is accomplished trough preparations for emergency, investigating and recording injuries and accidents. In addition, the aim is reached by means of workers’ and supervisors’ training and safety education, and by spreading information about dangerous chemicals. All in all, occupation safety in construction industry has improved much and can be considered one of the most prosperous industries in the country.

III. Summary

To sum everything up, the safety of the labor market of America has improved much during the last century. People strive for better working conditions and desire to be protected on their working places. This is a natural wish for any worker, for only in appropriate conditions the work is successfully done.

In general, there are several factors that improved working conditions in America. They are: technology development, machine use, public health care, social wealth and media attention.  Technology development and public health care seem to be the most influential in safety improvement. By introducing numerous technical devices and machines the work has become easier to be done. Besides, technological innovations help labor supervisors to control the working process on a high level and workers themselves became able to inform about the accidents they face (for instance, portable radio transmitters in mining industry or cranes in construction).

In addition, public health care has contributed much into workers health. Due to industrial revolution and technical progress of 19th century, medicine has improved much in the next centuries. It became possible to treat injured workers more effectively, and help them to rehabilitate after traumas. Besides, health care programs help to control workers’ health and evaluate their working competence.

It is important to note that working safety should be further investigated and more improvements should be brought, for there still remain many problems in this sphere. Government should give enough financial support in order to encourage citizens to work in the most dangerous spheres of industry, such as mining or construction. If working conditions are safe and salary is adequate, working class will be satisfied and perform its work even better.

IV. Conclusion

Without any shadow of a doubt, due to all the factors described in the research, working safety has reached a high level in America. Even such industries as mining or construction can boast of lowering death and injury rates comparing to the previous centuries, when people risked their lives when they performed their work.

It is a well known fact that during the industrial revolution the working class made up 80% of all American citizens. That is why the issue of working conditions was very crucial, for many died and were injured. Probably, industrialization pushed people to think over the way the work and how employers treat them. For if workers were satisfied with their working routine, no changes would be needed. Besides, workers’ protests at the beginning of the 19th century were one of the reasons for working conditions improvement.

Fortunately, workers reached their aim to get good working condition and guarantees for safety. America is one of the developed countries, and its workers must feel this, as well. The country sets high standards for working conditions, and it sties to stick to these standards. The only problem that is raised on the cost of labor safety improvement is technological hazards associated with machinery. Hopefully, new methods of solving this problem will be found and introduced to the society.


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