Essay on United States (U.S) Working Condition and Worker Safety

Published: 2021/12/28
Number of words: 829

America’s shifting economic landscape is affecting the society and the way people think about work, and skills they need to improve their living standards. These changes are reshaping the nature of jobs in terms of communication, social and analytical skills. Employment continues to rise in positions requiring more experience, training and education (Landsbergis 61). Such occurrence began in the 1980s, and they continued to grow through 1990s. During this period, the workforce in the United States of America (USA) increase by 31-percent. At the same time, workers and labor unions began to raise concerns on workplace safety and health. Despite the rise in employment at the time, the working conditions were not quite conducive as many employees worked in a dangerous environment that could lead to health issues and death. Therefore, occupational safety has been a crucial factor in America’s labour sector for many decades.

The history of federal workplace safety in America began during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in 1981 (Arcury 911). The department of labour agencies (DOL) was initiated during this time. Besides, the legislative arm of government took the responsibility of forming and enforcing the laws in place to protect the health and safety of workers. There are three DOL agencies in America including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (Donnelly 14). The three have played an essential role in enhancing employee safety; however, of all the three OSHA has encountered more controversies. OSHA was established through the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The agency regulates health and safety conditions in public and private industries using approved state plans. It as well protects whistleblowers by ensuring no ‘adverse action’ is taken against them form reporting safety concerns (Gray 998). In the recent past, OSHA has been criticized for punishing companies and employers for safety violations, instead of showing them how to comply with safety standards.

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Safety Violations

Safety violations, including poor work equipment, workers’ operational hours, poor environment, harmful work products, production process, and understaffing. Such abuses have led to injuries and death of employees. For instance, in the 1900s, there was fire at Imperial Food Products chicken­processing plant in North Carolina, killing 25 workers and injuring 40 (Calavita 437). The food plant, which was 11 years old at the time, had never been inspected by the DOL agencies on its state of safety. The witnesses present at sight said that they heard people screaming from the other side of a locked door. The fire department found that the fire was caused by deep-fat fryer. The hotel management admitted that there were previous problems with the fryer, which they described as ‘natural breakdowns and maintenance (Calavita 438).’ Such a scenario shows how employer negligence and poor working condition is fatal to workers. The table scripted below indicates the number of workers that have been killed and disabled on the job in different sectors from 1960 to 1997.

Workers Death and Injuries on the Job

(Schwartz 487)

According to the table, deaths occurred in different industries, including agriculture, construction, transportation, trade and manufacturing, among others (Schwartz Jr 487). The disabling injuries refer to the harms that might lead to death.

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The United States (U.S) working condition and worker safety have improved over time. However, there are still safety violations in different organizations. The DOL agencies, including the OSHA, have enhanced their mandate in worker protection. There are as well other sectors that have joined in the fight against safety violations at the workplace. Different political parties have enacted various laws that protect employees. For instance, the Republicans have pushed for deregulation that enhances public-private partnership in handling the worker’s welfare. Worker safety is crucial in every organization, and so there is a need for more avenues that advocate for safe working conditions.

Works Cited

Arcury, Thomas A., et al. “Overview of Immigrant Worker Occupational Health and Safety for the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AgFF) Sector in the Southeastern United States.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine, vol. 56, no. 8, 2013, pp. 911-924.

Calavita, Kitty. “The Demise of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: A Case Study in Symbolic Action.” Social Problems, vol. 30, no. 4, 1983, pp. 437-448.

Donnelly, Patrick G. “The Origins of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.” Social Problems, vol. 30, no. 1, 1982, pp. 13-25.

Gray, Wayne B. “The Cost of Regulation: OSHA, EPA and the Productivity Slowdown.” The American Economic Review. vol. 77, no. 5, 1987, pp. 998-1006.

Landsbergis, Paul A. “The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People: A Commentary.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, vol. 45, no. 1, 2003, pp. 61-72.

Schwartz Jr, Robert G. “Criminalizing Occupational Safety Violations: The Use of Knowing Endangerment Statutes to Punish Employers Who Maintain Toxic Working Conditions.” Harv. Envtl. L. Rev, vol. 14, 1990, p. 487.

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