Survey Finds Workplace Safety Tops Concerns Among Workers

According to a new study conducted by the National Opinion Research
Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, 85% of workers rate workplace
safety first in importance among labor standards. The study, “Public
Attitudes Towards and Experiences with Workplace Safety,” is a compilation
of dozens of surveys conducted from 2001 through this year and combines the
ratings of tens of thousands of people throughout the country, according to Tom
Smith, director of NORC’s General Social Survey (GSS).

Not only do workers rank safety as their top concern, but safety is also
ranked highest in satisfaction. From 1999 through 2009, satisfaction grew
overtime with 63% to 76% of survey respondents ranking “the physical
safety conditions of your workplace” first or second among a list of 15
job characteristics for 10 consecutive years.

The other characteristics being ranked in terms of satisfaction:

  • Relations with coworkers;
  • Flexibility of hours;
  • Amount of vacation time received;
  • Job security;
  • Supervision;
  • Amount of work required;
  • Opportunity to learn and grow (measured only in 1999);
  • Recognition of accomplishments;
  • Family and medical leave benefits (measured only in 1999);
  • Insurance benefits;
  • Chances for promotion;
  • Retirement plans offered by employer;
  • Money earned; and
  • Job-related stress.

Of these characteristics, one that is not ranked as highly as safety is
job-related stress, which unfortunately is a high contributor to workplace
injuries. The most recent GSS study on job-related stress, conducted in 2006,
found that 13% of workers find their jobs always stressful. Twenty-one percent
find their jobs often stressful, according to a NORC press release.

“In terms of satisfaction in the workplace, satisfaction with
safety itself is high and is actually going up. Satisfaction with a level of
stress is the lowest,” Smith told O&P Business News. “It
is usually the lowest or next to lowest on the list.”

Smith explained that stress, as a negative event in the workplace, is a
burden that can cause a sort of chain reaction.

“It overwhelms people so if they are under stress or being rushed,
it can contribute to other incidents happening in the workplace,” Smith

According to the introduction to the study, the 2009 results underscore
the difference between safety and stress. In that year, only about 5% of
workers were dissatisfied with workplace safety. In the same year, 30% were not
satisfied with job-related stress.

The study conducted for the Public Welfare Foundation found that
approximately 12% of workers reported a workplace injury during the past year.
Thirty-seven percent said they have required medical treatment at some point
for a workplace injury. Workplace injuries were found more common among men
than women and in younger age groups. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that 4.6
million workplace injuries occurred in 2008. These statistics, however, show a
general decline in recent years.

Source: Gallup Polls/ NORC

The survey aimed to examine support for workplace safety measures and
public attention to workplace safety among other miscellaneous safety concerns.

Smith points out that the findings take into consideration a number of
occupations that pose varying levels of workplace hazards. Specific responses
from the health care sector were undistinguishable due to the number of
responses and surveys compiled. – by Jennifer Hoydicz

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