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How economic recessions affect workplace safety

Tough times are being predicted for many of the nation’s industries — and that could mean that workplaces will become less safe for employees.

Downward economic trends have long been related to an increase in workplace deaths. After the 2009 recession, for example, preventable deaths in the workplace shot up 20% even though the number of people in the workforce increased by just half that amount.

Why does it work like that? Researchers say that a widespread financial crisis has both physical and psychological effects that end up being a detriment to worker safety. For example:

  • Companies become focused on renewed growth in the scramble to overcome their economic woes, and that means that there’s less focus on health and safety concerns.
  • Workers who have endured layoffs may be inclined to take whatever jobs they can find — often without enough regard for their own safety.
  • Experienced workers may retire or have a harder time coming back after a layoff, which leaves the less-experienced workers to pick up the slack. Often, they don’t have the necessary training or skills to maintain proper safety.
  • Budget cuts put in place to help a company survive may simply take their toll as workers are forced to wear “many hats” on the job or do without adequate resources.

No matter what’s going on with the economy, companies have an obligation to see that their workers are reasonably protected against on-the-job injuries and deaths. When they fail, everyone suffers — especially the injured workers and their families. If your loved one died in a work-related incident, find out what you can do to hold their employer accountable.


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