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The Real Connection Between Layoffs and Workplace Safety

If a worker is under a tremendous amount of pressure, their job performance inevitably suffers. If their job requires manual labor or the use of heavy equipment and machinery (construction or manufacturing jobs, for example), then this stress can create a disastrously unsafe work environment.

The trend of layoffs, increased job demands and deteriorating workplace safety are connected in a very fundamental way. Employers often fall short in noticing and addressing these trends, and they’re doing so in a manner that is harmful to a large segment of hard-working Americans. To provide some context for these problems, let’s first take a closer at the way our institutions approach workplace safety and employee health.

Workplace Safety and Worker Health

There is a major disconnect in the way many workplaces approach the health of their employees and the safety of work environments. Occupational Health & Safety released an article in 2013 detailing the contradictory methods in which employers and the government takes on these two seemingly intertwined issues. In short, employee health is usually addressed in a “bottom-up” approach – meaning that it is either workers themselves or human resource departments that encourage employees to take better care of their own health, i.e. smoking cessation, getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a healthy diet. Conversely, workplace safety is addressed “top-down”, with regulations and recommendations coming from federal or state regulators.

OHS questions, and rightfully so, why there is a lack of uniformity in how institutions tackle safety and health. By looking at these two issues as the two sides of the same coin and streamlining their approaches, they might be able to strengthen both worker health and worker safety.

How Layoffs Come Into Play…

Into this mix of workplace safety and employee health comes the issues of layoffs and the prospect of job loss. Job insecurity can lead to a number of serious implications for workers, including stress and overall poor health. As industries like manufacturing constantly search for ways to increase worker productivity, it is often the worker who suffers, struggling to meet increasing time constraints under the threat of losing their job.

Job Security and Worker Performance

Research has shown that employees who experience low levels of job security might also be less likely to comply with safety procedures. When workers are less compliant with these procedures, there are a higher number of workplace accidents. It should come as no surprise that the workers who feel a loss of control over their own lives also see a drop-off in their overall job performance.

Tough Times For American Workers

In general, workers in the United States don’t have the support that they used to enjoy. For example, labor unions no longer have the might to fight for worker job security, safe work environments and proper health benefits. Over the past three decades, the percentage of U.S. workers in unions has decreased by almost half, from 20.1 percent in 1983 to 11.1 percent in 2015. Texas is one of five states with union membership rates under five percent (4.5 percent). Unfortunately, many workers are being treated like they are disposable. When an employer wants to cut costs, they often reduce their workforce or cut employee pay. There are fewer and fewer guarantees for workers. This is especially true in Texas, where ProPublica and NPR reported last year that workers are seeing fewer and fewer benefits after a serious injury.

Employers Are Concerned About Reducing Liability

When employers do show concern for employee health, it is often because they know they can be held liable if their workers’ health conditions lead to unsafe work environments and employee injuries. A business worries that workers can take legal action if they don’t do their due diligence. At Guajardo & Marks, we know from direct experience the numerous methods businesses use to reduce their liability.

If you’ve been injured on the job due to unsafe work conditions or because of the stressful demands placed on you by an employer, you need an advocate who is familiar with their tactics. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Guajardo & Marks will defend your rights and make sure that you are treated fairly. Contact us today to talk to one of our workers’ compensation attorneys.