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A safer society: A century of progress

All evidence expresses a discernible downward trend in slip- and fall-related injuries. Share this article

Are we safer than we were a hundred years ago? All signs seem to point to the affirmative. Think about the world of 1915: World War I was ravaging Europe, the Mexican revolution was stirring along the southern U.S. border and child labor was still widely used in factories. According to the University of Iowa, the first federal child labor law wasn't passed until 1916 – and it was quickly repealed. In fact, child labor laws wouldn't stick in the books until 1938. Workers compensation was available in a few states, but more official regulations would have to wait until the Roosevelt administration of the 1930s. The Department of Labor said that the regulations of today were first introduced by Nixon's Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Over the last century, businesses, workers and the government have been working together to make conditions safer for employees. Across all industries, from restaurants and retailers to factories and healthcare, employees are safer than ever. Improvements in technology such as hard hats, slip-resistant shoes, gas detectors and sanitation equipment have all contributed to the downward trend in workplace accidents.

Falling injuries can lead to days of missed work.Injuries from a fall can lead to days of missed work.

Rates of injuries caused by a fall are falling
A report by The National Safety Council showed that injuries from falls accounted for over 25 out of 100,000 deaths in 1910. By 2010 that number had dropped to below 10 out of 100,000. For comparison, deaths caused by poisoning actually increased from 2 per 100,000 to 11 per 100,000. The data for falling injuries is encouraging because it means that businesses have taken a serious look into ways they can prevent slips. Just between the years 2003 and 2012, nonfatal occupational falling accidents were reduced from upwards of 80,000 to below 50,000 per year.

Over the past 40 years, workplace deaths in general have decreased by nearly 75 percent, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. During that same period, the number of workers in the U.S. doubled. This data indicates that government regulation has led to safer workplaces and fewer fatal and nonfatal injuries. The NSC report additionally stated that rates of injuries resulting in days away from work dropped by half in the period between 1990 and 2013.

"Complacency is the only real threat to improved workplace safety."

Looking forward
This data seems to indicate that workplace safety will only continue to get better. Companies are always looking for ways to innovate and bring about improved safety procedures. Government organizations like the Department of Labor and OSHA are constantly pushing forward guidelines, regulations and laws that protect workers and keep them safe from harm.

Complacency is the only real threat to improved workplace safety. Businesses and their employees can make a positive difference by working together and communicating effectively. The next hundred years are going to look a lot different from the previous century, and all the evidence  expresses a discernible downward trend in slip- and fall-related injuries. 

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