Most of us go to work confident that we won’t be killed or maimed on the job. We expect that our normal conditions
of work will be safe and that risks in the event of
an emergency will be managed in such a way as to
minimize loss of life or damage to our health. We
take all of this for granted, blissfully unaware of how
much of occupational health and safety law is recent
history, how much it varies from place to place and
industry to industry, and how technology is proving
itself a double-edged sword – by both creating new
opportunities for worker protection, and also exposing
them to new risks.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Being a member of a bomb disposal squad is inherently riskier
than being a librarian. The former has fewer manageable risks
and presents more probable and more catastrophic hazards
(being blown up). Manageability is the key here.
Working as a fire fighter is undoubtedly risky, but public safety
agencies have hard-won understanding of those risks, a healthy
regard for preserving their critical resources (people), and well-established processes and tools for keeping their people safe. It
is interesting to note that the major cause of firefighter fatality
is not what we might imagine, but rather, caused by overexertion
and stress. This is not to diminish the risk to firefighters, but
based on employer-reported injuries and deaths in US, the
most dangerous industries are Construction, Transportation,
Agriculture and Forestry, Fishing and – perhaps surprisingly –
Professional Services. Construction recorded the highest number
of deaths, and was the only one to see an increase in both fatal
occupational injuries counts and rates. The other three industries
decreased in total deaths and fatal injury rates from 2014 to 2015.