Yearbook on OHS profiles exceptional reporting by investigative journalists

This week’s recap of "The Year in US Occupational Health and Safety" concludes with the section dedicated to national reporting on worker health and safety topics.

When Kim and I looked back over the past 12 months and brainstormed topics to include in the report, on the top of our list was the contributions of investigative journalists. The stories we profile in Section IV the report include the following:

The New York Times’ Sarah Maslin Nir exposed the “price of pretty nails” in her investigation of working conditions for nail salon workers in the New York City area. In the May 2015 series of articles, the reporter told the stories of women suffering miscarriages, breathing problems, skin disorders and other health problems attributed to on-the-job exposures. Nir interviewed more than 150 workers and found that a majority were paid below minimum wage---if at all---and subject to a caste-like system of ethnic discrimination. The reporter opened the public’s eyes to understand the true cost of a $10 manicure.

Michael Grabell of ProPublica and Howard Berkes of National Public Radio examined the failures and inequalities of the nation’s state-based workers’ compensation (WC) insurance programs.  They introduced readers to injured workers and the obstacles they faced in securing appropriate medical care and reimbursement for lost wages. In the March 2015 series, the reporters examined the “reforms” instituted over the last decade which have driven WC insurance premium rates to a 25-year low, but resulted in inadequate care for seriously injured individuals. The investigation offered a number of interactive features which allowed readers to compare coverage by states, including the monetary value specific body parts.

National Public Radio’s Daniel Zwerdling  investigated the high rate of occupational injuries suffered by nurses. In the February 2015 series, the reporter examined the effectiveness of mechanical devices to lift patients, yet the unwillingness of many hospitals to invest in the equipment. Zwerdling also described the lengths to which some healthcare employers will go to dodge responsibility for nurses’ work-related injuries.

Other national reporting we profile in the yearbook are:

  • An analysis by Mine Safety and Health News and National Public Radio that linked mines with unpaid safety penalties to higher rates of injuries.
  • An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity of OSHA’s inability to issue standards related to toxic substances.
  • An exploration by Vox of consumers’ interest in environmentally sustainable food yet little regard for the workers who grow, tend, produce, and process our food.
  • An examination by The Nation of the impact of workplace electronic surveillance and metrics on health.
  • The focus by EnergyWire, Politico, and Reveal, on deaths and injuries among workers in the oil and gas industry.

Kim Krisberg and I were happy to mark Labor Day 2015 with the release of "The Year in US Occupational Health and Safety (Fall 2014 to Summer 2015)."  It was the fourth edition of the yearbook. We hope you will click on the report, review it, and share with us your thoughts on the most memorable events in OHS from the past 12 months.

The previous editions from Labor Day 2012, Labor Day 2013, and Labor Day 2014 are available here.

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