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Survey: Workplace injury and downsizing

| Jan 14, 2015 | Workers’ Compensation

The prospect of suffering a work-related injury can be a challenging experience for an Illinois worker. A serious injury can result in a loss of a household’s only source of income. As an Illinois injured workers attorney would be aware, work injuries and illnesses extend beyond just medical costs. Workers and their families may struggle to make mortgage payments, car payments and afford the necessities of life, especially if they are left permanently disabled. According to a psychologist from Washington State University, workers may be at higher risk for injury if their job status is uncertain.

Organizational change study

In 1999, a group of researchers surveyed 237 line workers at two large poultry-processing plants. These plants were in the midst of organizational changes that put the ongoing employment of many employees in question. At one of the plants, an entire shift of workers was terminated. At the other plant, night shift workers were replacing swing shift workers. For those employees whose personal circumstances were not compatible with a night shift, the perceived risk of losing their jobs was high.

As described in a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, the Washington State University psychologist found that this period of job insecurity resulted in more work-related accidents, as well as injuries. In other terms, she found a negative relationship between job security and workplace safety.

Shifted attitudes toward safety

The researchers concluded that the correlation they observed between job security and workplace injury reflected a shift in attitudes toward safety. Safety measures in the workplace may limit the efficiency with which workers are able to perform their duties. During a period of normalcy, workers may be expected to comply with safety measures. Moreover, managers and supervisors might be expected to stay on top of training and enforcement of safety issues.

However, when management is under pressure to improve profitability, normalcy may be supplanted by anxiety. This scenario, which is what prompted the organizational changes at the plants, may downgrade safety as a priority. Specifically, safety concerns may give way to job security concerns, both at the management and worker level. An Illinois injured workers attorney knows that under such pressure, both workers and managers may be willing to do whatever it takes to increase their production, even if that means disregarding safety measures.

Workers’ compensation

Attempts to improve profitability by devaluing workplace safety can be counterproductive. When workers sustain injuries, employers are liable for those injuries. In Illinois, employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Consequently, the extra production that may be created in an environment of fear could be negated by the costs of covering injuries sustained due to that environment. Workers who are injured at work may wish to consult with an Illinois injured workers attorney.