How Workplace Injuries Make the Lives of Low-Wage Workers Miserable

February 15, 2013
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Workplace injuries, though very common even in developed countries, rarely manage to steal a headline in major newspapers. And even in some rarest of rare cases, if an incident manages to steal a spot probably because of its gruesome nature, general people like you and me tend to ignore it, as we count these types of workplace injuries as a part of the job.

Workplace injuries, though very common even in developed countries, rarely manage to steal a headline in major newspapers. And even in some rarest of rare cases, if an incident manages to steal a spot probably because of its gruesome nature, general people like you and me tend to ignore it, as we count these types of workplace injuries as a part of the job.

Probably due to this easy-going mentality, many employers are not giving the required level of attention to health and safety regulations. Employers seem not that interested in buying nonslip safety steps so that their employers do not fall from high when working in their warehouses, or they simply do not care about the cords left lying on the floor that might can easily cause a slip and trip accident. High-wage workers might still be able to cope with workplace injuries given the fact that they earn more and probably save more to protect themselves against the financial difficulties if they are injured while working. But low-paid working class does not have that luxury. When they become sick or get injured while working, they struggle to overcome it.

In the United States alone, 31 million workers who are earning a measly $11.19 an hour are very much vulnerable to the aforementioned types of illnesses and workplace injuries. And because of the lax attitude of the employers, this problem is getting worse. According to a report submitted by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS), workplace injuries and illness have cost the United States a massive $39 billion in 2010.

workplace injuriesPhoto Credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/7388762@N03/4251078350/

Why lowest rung of the society is facing the most difficulties
The reason why the lower income group is having the most difficulties dealing with the growing instances of workplace injuries is that they do not get that many paid sick leaves as compared to other white-collar workers. Since they have fewer paid sick leave, they do not get enough much time to recuperate completely from a work related injury, unless they do not mind getting a smaller paycheck at the end of the week. As we have to pay the gas and electricity bills, monthly rents, buy groceries and meet other daily expenses, we simply cannot afford to lose two or three days of wage in a week’s paycheck. And for that reason, why they have to hit the workplace even when they are not totally fit either physically or mentally.

Approximately, 22% of the workforce in the United States are in occupations that are not considered to be highly productive. The majority of them are working as restaurant workers, house cleaners, janitors and other not-so-glorious positions. As expected , they are living on the breadline and therefore, they can hardly make any saving at the end of the month.

dangerous workplace injuries
Photo Credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/31157339@N00/4015172385

Stats on workplace injuries
In 2010 alone, approximately 12,415 low-wage workers died from occupational diseases like cancer, black lung etc. and in that year, 596 of them get injured severely while working. And if this stats is not enough to make you see the gravity of the situation, here are more. During the same period, 87,857 workers had developed different health problems like asthma, allergies and other non-fatal diseases and a massive 1.6 million workers had faced minor injuries while working. Now, it had cost the nation a massive $24 billion for the lost of productivity and another $15 billion for medical care.

insurance policies
Photo Credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/82866214@N07/8368091566/ 

Insurance policies and their pitfalls
It is not mandatory for some employers offer compensation insurance and this makes it all the more difficult for low-paid workers to deal with workplace injuries as there is nothing to insure them against any such untoward incidents. Even if these low-paid workers are insured against workplace hazards, in most cases the amount of compensation is far below than the actual cost and this can make a family, which is already struggling with tough economic condition, go bankrupt. And the most disconcerting fact about these types of compensation insurance policies is that the policy provider does not need to offer wage replacement unless the worker is absent for at least 3 days consecutively. And sometimes, low-paid workers are pressured not to report these injuries as work related and when they do so, they do not get any kind of benefits from the insurance company.

So, the only way, we can tackle the menace of workplace injuries is by making employers follow and implement health and safety regulations in their respective workplace.  We also need to educate them that a healthy workforce adds to productivity. Hopefully things will show some signs of improvements, if we can do this. 

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