Healthy and Safe Workplace Project Report Announcement

WRC Releases Healthy & Safe Workplace Project ReportWorkers Surveyed Report High Rate of Injuries, Fear of Retaliation On Tuesday, January 25, 2011 the Workers’ Rights Center (WRC) released a report looking at workplace health and safety based on surveys and interviews of hundreds of workers in the Madison area.  The Healthy and Safe Workplace Project was initiated by the WRC with the support of the Public Welfare Foundation as part of an effort by seven worker centers nationally affiliated with Interfaith Worker Justice to investigate workplace health and safety, particularly for Latino immigrant workers.     In June and July 2010, the WRC conducted a short survey focused on health and safety in the workplace at multiple locations in the Madison, Wisconsin area. Three hundred four (304) surveys were completed by workers who visited the center, by previous clients contacted by telephone, and by workers at various sites.  The WRC also analyzed intake data of workers who visited the WRC with workplace issues from the past two years. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaints data in south central Wisconsin was reviewed, as well, and compared to data gathered in the survey and intake review.   The main findings of the survey and intake review fell into four main categories:

  • The number of reported injuries and illnesses was high (~25%) even in industries viewed as less dangerous (childcare/education, retail, restaurants, and hotels).
  • Workers’ perceptions of the relative health and safety hazards of their jobs tended to be significantly lower than injury and illness rates.
  • Over half of the survey respondents were unfamiliar with OSHA and the processes for filing complaints.
  • In both survey and intake data, workers expressed a high level of fear regarding retaliation and a lack of confidence that they would be protected if they complained.

The report offers three key recommendations based on the study:

  • Educating the community about OSHA, the complaint and enforcement process, and general health and safety standards.
  • Fostering a more proactive and engaged attitude toward health and safety in the workplace.
  • Creating a support network and resource bank to assist and back up workers who seek to address unsafe and unhealthy working conditions in their workplaces.   

“In the past five years, while most demographics have seen a drop in deaths and injuries in the workplace, Latinos have seen a steady increase,” said Carlos, an advocate at the WRC. “This has been reduced somewhat by the economic downturn and the higher level of unemployment, but the general trend is alarming.  Going to work shouldn’t be lethal.” “We have been hearing a lot of rhetoric lately about ‘job killing’ regulations.  That is not what we are seeing in our data or hearing from workers in our interviews.  We are more concerned about ‘worker killing and maiming’ jobs,” said Patrick Hickey, WRC Director.  “We have seen too many workers at the WRC who show up with life changing injuries who are now battling to get their basic workers’ compensation benefits.” “Going forward we plan to ramp up our level of community health and safety training and develop a stronger partnership with OSHA to make sure that workplace hazards are addressed and workers feel secure in bringing up concerns,” said WRC board member, Yvonne Geerts.  View the report HERE.