A yearlong analysis of existing programs dedicated to worker safety in the U.S. has resulted in a call from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to reconfigure existing information systems to create safer working conditions in a changing economy. Analysts say that the study illustrates a need for improved health surveillance systems as well as better tracking and monitoring of occupational injuries. Experts are also calling for a systemic sharing of information between agencies.
Health surveillance is the term used by professionals who track metadata related to public health concerns. Current systems are primarily outcome based and focus on after-the-fact analysis of workplace injuries. A more proactive approach could lead to injury prevention through predictive analysis of occupational safety data. Sharing of data between the BLS, OSHA and NIOSH could result in a more rapid response to industry-wide safety hazards. In the face of changing workplaces, tracking exposures to hazardous materials as well as periodic testing and screening of workers could improve medical outcomes for exposed workers.
As with most health initiatives aimed at improving worker safety, the motivation of employers is key to success. Employers averse to spending may be unwilling to offer the clinical screenings required to implement a thorough surveillance system. The current regulatory environment makes the implementation of the recommended policy initiatives unlikely in the short term. However, there is hope for safer workplaces as employers realize injury prevention is less costly than treatment as health care prices continue to skyrocket.
For those who have been injured on the job, it may be wise to hire a workers’ compensation attorney. Work injury advocates who are familiar with safety laws can provide much-needed peace of mind to workers injured on the job.