New Hampshire saw only seven workplace deaths in 2008 — half as many as in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Although this is statistically fortunate for most employees, the Bureau cites the slowing economy as the main reason for lower death rates. This, of course, is not necessarily a good sign for New Hampshire. A down economy results in fewer employees in the workplace and fewer hours for those who have work.
[According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a fatality is a “workplace death,” if the employee was engaged in legal work activity or in an area as a part of his or her work requirements. Deaths while commuting to or from work do not count in these statistics. Neither do deaths from illness during employment (unless, of course, the employee's illness could be traced back to the work environment).]
The Bureau's statistics on Occupational Injuries and Illness showed that rates of work-related personal injuries and illness also fell. The time required to recover from these injuries, however, increased.
This brings up two issues: (1) deaths and injuries attributed to workplaces must have sufficient documentation in order to blame employers; and (2) there may be reasons why some employees fail to report accidents.
Furthermore, fewer workers and work hours result in fewer overall injuries and deaths, but perhaps even greater stress for those still on the job.
Again, these statistics cover only what was recorded and do not take into consideration injuries and illness unreported by either the employee or the employer.
While the economy may have impacted the number of employees and, therefore, the incidents of death and injury, it may also have affected the likelihood that either a worker or a business would report minor injuries or illnesses.
In fact, with a slowing economy it's likely that some workers may choose not to report personal injuries for fear of losing a job. This would support the idea that only the most severe personal injuries are being reported to employers, therefore decreasing the number of reports but increasing recovery time.
Conclusion: Workers need to remember that personal injuries should be taken seriously, especially if they are job-related, and should report them accordingly. Laws and regulations are set up to support and compensate injured employees, even if the injury is minor. A slow economy may influence statistics, but that same economy can affect individual workers who may put themselves at risk with higher stress.
Keep this in mind if you or a loved one is injured on the job. Regardless of fault, injuries and deaths at work need to be reported to help prevent future injuries on the job.
Statistics only tell part of the story. Injury prevention is really up to the employees who must report problems to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.