Reflections on Fatal Occupational Injury Rates in the U.S. vs. Importing Countries
- Tammy Gammon (John Matthews and Associates)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- January 2020
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 39 - 46
- 2020. American Society of Safety Professionals
- 6 in the last 30 days
- 6 since 2007
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- Approximately two-thirds of the 2016 U.S. imports originated in countries with workplaces less safe than those in the U.S.
- The U.S. has failed to achieve the low fatal injury rates attained by some top importing countries.
- Readers are asked to reflect on how the U.S. can share its knowledge and use its influence to reduce occupational injuries elsewhere, as well as learn from the safety and health systems implemented in countries with safer workplaces.
This research began as an exploration of OSH in different countries. The primary objective was to compare fatal injury rates in other countries with the U.S. The secondary objective was to learn about the scope, accuracy, limitations and differences in occupational injury statistics from other nations. The tertiary objective was to gain insight into the regulation and oversight of OSH, as well as economic activities of other countries. To limit the research to a manageable number of countries representing different parts of the world but having an intrinsically important relationship with the U.S., the top 12 importing countries were selected.
The U.S. has the largest import economy and the second largest export economy in the world. In 2016, the U.S. imported $2.21 trillion and exported $1.42 trillion (OEC, 2019). To place imports and exports in perspective, the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 was $18.6 trillion (Investopedia, 2018). The U.S. ranks in the top 10 countries of highest per capita GDP and enjoys a high standard of living. The country also has a high standard for OSH. But many products sold by U.S. companies are manufactured in other parts of the world. Products assembled in the U.S. contain components manufactured outside the U.S. Many products and equipment used by U.S. companies and residents are manufactured elsewhere.
This article reviews the top 12 importers from 2016 and common import categories. It also compares fatal occupational injury incidence rates of the top importers with the U.S. Some countries have rates notably lower than the U.S. Based on the author’s analysis, approximately two-thirds of the imports originate in countries with workplaces less safe than those in the U.S. The occupational safety record reflected in many products and components we use in the U.S. is substandard to what is permissible in the U.S.
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