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Striving to prevent a work injury is cheaper than treatment

According to national statistics, approximately 4,836 workers suffered a fatal accident on the job in 2015. However, that does not include the numbers of workers who suffer a work injury or illness from less obvious hazards in the work environment. It is unknown how many New Jersey employees may have suffered long-term illnesses from unseen toxins.

The Occupation Safety and Health Administration estimates that 190,000 workers may suffer from the ill effects caused by accumulation of particulates that are inhaled during the course of a regular shift in some industries. In fact, this particular federal agency is much less protective than the Environmental Protection Agency that is charged with overseeing the health of the public at large. For example, the amount of lead particulates that are permitted in the air by the EPA is less than 0.15 micrograms per a specific measure of air. OSHA's standard allows for 50 micrograms for the same amount of air.

While OSHA laments the discrepancies in these regulations, it also places the blame for the outdated standards on political policies. Regardless of the reasons behind why workers are still exposed to unsafe levels of some toxins and pollutants, it would be more cost effective for companies to implement safety measures rather than wait to pay for workers who are suffering from poor health due to unsafe work environments. OSHA did recently implement a new measure for a certain irritant, however. Though the new rule will likely save many workers from health complications in the future, it took almost twenty years to put into place.

Unions are credited with helping to protect New Jersey workers from many unsafe work conditions, though not every hazard can be foreseen and prevented. When a worker suffers a serious work injury or illness, then the workers' compensation program is supposed to step in and assist an employee in paying medical expenses and providing a monetary safety net until the worker is able to resume normal duties. Workers are entitled to seek the assistance of an attorney to ensure that these claims are processed correctly and without undue delay.

Source: northjersey.com, "Finding common Ground on Workplace Safety", Charles Wowkanech, April 24, 2017

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