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October 19, 2021

Recessions are bad news when it comes to workplace safety: report

Canadians are worried about the impact of the economic downturn on workplace health and safety. But what do they do about it when everyone is so concerned about jobs?

A worker is more likely to be laid off if he or she has reported an accident within the past 12 months, according to a recent Dutch study

The researchers’ hypothesis was that the apparent decreases in the number of safety incidents during economic downturns aren’t a result of safer workplaces or work practices but instead reflect workers’ reluctance to report problems to their employers for fear of getting fired.

Increasing a company's layoff rate even slightly leads to a significant decrease in the probability that workers will report accidents, the researchers say.

Of course, getting fired always carries adverse consequences, even in the best of times. But when unemployment is high, the consequences grow, especially in countries with poor unemployment benefits.

The relationship between unemployment and incident reporting is even stronger in those countries than in countries with high unemployment benefits like Canada, explains safety expert Robin Barton.

Recessions simply aren’t good for workplace safety; rather, they actually lull everyone into thinking that the workplace has gotten safer when that’s not the case at all, she maintains. 

Critics worrty that occupational health and safety could be seen as a 'nice-to-have' rather than a really essential social and economic ingredient thus tempting employers to reduce standards or delay introducing essential protective measures.

How are things where you work? Do lean times mean cut corners? Is there a downside to whistle blowing when it comes to safety issues?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...