Unsafe workplaces are a topic of discussion around the world, including in the United States. When workers are in an unsafe environment, the consequences can be far-reaching.
An employer who’s not seen as protecting the health and safety of their employees can face legal ramifications and brand backlash. It’s difficult to recover from, yet some of the world’s biggest employers still showcase situations that can put workers and entire communities at risk.
The National Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health releases what’s known as the “Dirty Dozen” list, highlighting companies where workers have experienced health complications, safety violations, have died, or who have experienced mistreatment, including sexual harassment.
According to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, their objective is to promote safe, healthy work conditions for everyone. They facilitate education, training, and advocacy.
They also highlight the fact that almost all work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths are preventable.
Some of the organization’s work has led companies like Lowe’s to clean up their act in recent years.
The following are some of the companies listed on this year’s list.
Shopping on Amazon is how most of us get everything from groceries to clothes, and while the company is pervasive around the world, that doesn’t necessarily mean they always treat their employees as they should.
For example, a ProPublica report recently came out that showed Amazon escapes liability for serious injuries in delivery truck accidents in pursuit of its free-shipping ambitions.
Amazon was also on the 2019 Dirty Dozen list, with six worker deaths occurring in seven months and 13 deaths since 2013.
According to the report, recent investigations have shown a high rate of suicide attempts among employees, workers urinating in bottles because of a fear of taking breaks, and workers being left without an income or any resources when they suffer an injury on-the-job.
Many of the investigations about the working conditions at Amazon have shown links between adverse outcomes and rapid delivery systems.
Facebook was another big name on this year’s 2019 list. Facebook itself wasn’t necessarily the biggest issue, but rather the companies they contract with were.
Facebook contracts with companies like Accenture, Cognization, and Tech Solutions.
They use moderators who are paid low wages and are responsible for removing content from the network such as pornography, images of suicide, murders, and more.
The people who do these jobs often say they struggle with PTSD and acute stress disorder.
Most Facebook moderators don’t work for the company directly.
An employee named Selena Scola, along with two others, Erin Elder and Gabriel Ramos worked as Facebook moderators but were employees of outside companies. They filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook saying it violates California law by failing to provide a safe work environment.
Facebook responded to the original complaint made by Scala, saying the didn’t have the right to sue the company since she wasn’t a direct employee.
Employees who work for Cognizant, one of the contracting companies, earn, on average, $28,800 a year, while the annual average pay at Facebook is more than $240,000.
Moderators typically leave the difficult and high-stress position after less than a year, but the effects of violent image exposure may be ongoing.
Integra Health Management
Integra Health Management is a company with locations in Tampa, Florida and Owings Mills, Maryland.
Integra is a social service company that works by clients who need help coordinating health care for chronic conditions.
A social worker, Stephanie Ross, was stabbed to death by a client after she reported concerns for her safety during a previous home visit.
Even though Ross filed a report expressing her concerns, she was assigned to do more home visits alone.
On her fourth visit in 2012, the client stabbed her nine times and she died later that day.
Integra was cited and fined by OSHA as a result, and the ruling from the U.S. Occupational Safety Health and Review Commission was that OSHA has the authority to hold employers accountable in the prevention of workplace violence.
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Located in Baltimore, world-renowned Johns Hopkins hospital isn’t necessarily somewhere you would think of as being detrimental to the health and safety of employees, but the Dirty Dozen list states otherwise.
Four out of five nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital say they’ve been victims of workplace violence.
One of four surveyed nurses said the hospital ignores these events, and only one in 15 nurses say they have the gloves they need to protect them from hazardous materials.
The issues at Johns Hopkins Hospitals were highlighted in a report in The Tampa Bay Times on December 2018.
There were at least nine cases in which the hospitals that are part of the health system were determined to have ignored basic safety rules or made preventable errors.
Purdue Pharma isn’t in the headlines for their treatment of their own employees, but they still made the Dirty Dozen list. The pharmaceutical company is being named as one of the key contributors to the ongoing opioid epidemic, starting with the introduction of drugs like OxyContin.
Workers who struggle with pain from injuries are one of the primary demographics affected by the opioid epidemic.
According to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, anywhere from 55 to 85% of workers who are injured receive an opioid prescription.
Workers in certain industries, including construction are more likely than people in other careers to die from opioid overdoses.
At Purdue Pharma, to boost early sales of OxyContin, executives at the company specifically targeted patients who had workplace injuries and their doctors.
While advocacy groups and reports like the Dirty Dozen can shed light on important things for workers to know, you also have to learn how to advocate for yourself and how to report issues that may arise.
While the country has come a long way in terms of worker protections and safety, as the Dirty Dozen report goes, there’s still quite a bit more work to be done.