Worker Safety

October 4, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 35
Is OSHA falling down on the job?
By T. R. Goldman


An apartment building in West, Texas, lies in ruins after an explosion (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)
An apartment building in West, Texas, lies in ruins after an explosion at a nearby fertilizer plant on April 17 damaged parts of the surrounding community, killing 15 people and injuring more than 150. Workplace accidents kill some 4,500 Americans each year. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

The American workplace is far safer today than it was four decades ago, but nonetheless a dozen workers die every day from job-related injuries. A catastrophic workplace accident occurred in April, when a West, Texas, fertilizer plant exploded, killing 15 people and obliterating much of the town. Worker safety remains controversial, with labor advocates complaining that antiregulatory sentiment has hobbled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's ability to regulate workplace hazards. But business groups argue that many OSHA rules are ineffective and hurt productivity and profits. Meanwhile, emerging technologies such as nanotechnology and synthetic biology pose new challenges to regulators, while age-old workplace problems like trench cave-ins and musculoskeletal pain are still widespread. Overseas, deadly industrial disasters at factories producing clothing for the U.S. and European markets have raised questions about the ethical responsibility of companies that outsource jobs to developing countries with lax worker protections.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jobs and Skills
Feb. 04, 2022  The New Labor Market
Sep. 17, 2021  Career Change
Aug. 28, 2020  The Nature of Work
Sep. 21, 2018  Labor Shortage Debate
Mar. 30, 2018  U.S. Trade Policy
Oct. 04, 2013  Worker Safety
Mar. 02, 2012  Attracting Jobs
Jul. 22, 2011  Reviving Manufacturing
Jun. 04, 2010  Jobs Outlook
Feb. 20, 2004  Exporting Jobs
Jan. 11, 2002  Future Job Market
Apr. 24, 1998  High-Tech Labor Shortage
Oct. 24, 1997  Contingent Work Force
Feb. 28, 1992  Jobs in the '90s
Jun. 27, 1986  America's Service Economy
Jul. 22, 1983  Technology and Employment
Dec. 10, 1969  Jobs for the Future
Jun. 21, 1967  World Competition for Skilled Labor
Sep. 03, 1965  Shortage of Skills
Oct. 31, 1962  Retraining for New Jobs
Nov. 28, 1956  Shortage of Critical Skills
Economic Development
Employee Benefits
Global Issues
Workplace Safety and Worker's Compensation