Workplaces are safer, but major risks remain

Construction workers attach a barrier to the exterior of an apartment building under construction in Centreville, Va.

Jeremy Hobson: To workplace safety now, and a report out this morning that says the government agency charged with keeping us safe in the workplace -- OSHA -- is falling short. According to one of the country's largest unions more than 4,000 workers died on the job in 2009.

Marketplace's David Gura reports.


David Gura: The AFL-CIO came to this conclusion:

Peg Seminario: Workplaces are getting safer.

That's safety and health director Peg Seminario.

Seminario: But we also see that there are significant problems that remain.

Workers inhaling silica. Unsafe machinery. Seminario says while there are fewer jobs in some industries, the death rate has stayed constant.

Seminario: While the numbers went down in construction, the rate did not.

The AFL-CIO wants tougher enforcement and higher fines.

Robert Sandy: I'm skeptical of fines in general, and absolutely skeptical of fines that are rules-based.

Robert Sandy teaches economics at Indiana University. He says a company shouldn't pay a penalty if a railing is too low, because its height might not have made a difference. But if a worker gets injured or dies, that's another story.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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