"One of the greatest challenges facing occupational safety and health professionals is the changing workforce," National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Director Linda Rosenstock noted at the opening session of the American Society of Safety Engineers Conference and Exposition in Orlando.
Rosenstock told attendees this morning that the workfoce is changing in terms of age, who is working, how they are being compensated and the rate in which they work.
In 2005, 15 percent of the workfoce will be 55 years or older. People are working longer because of changing social security benefits, according to Rosenstock.
The demographics of workers and their compensation is also changing. More women and minorities are entering the workplace.
Low wage workers have increased by more than one-third over the past 10 years, as well as contingency.
Rosenstock noted that this is particularly important to the field of health and safety because contingency workers are at a greater risk for illness and injury.
Temporary workers compared to permanent workers also have a higher rate of workers'' compensation claims, according to Rosenstock.
Other challenges facing the workplace include:
- Longer working hours.
- Job Insecurity.
- Increased stress.
Rosenstock noted that NIOSH'' strategic goals have been put in place to address several of these challenges. The goals include research, surveillance, prevention and information/training.
- Research. Rosenstock pointed out that NIOSH has conducted a series of targeted programs to reduce morbidity and injuries such as the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).
- Surveillance. Working with the government, NIOSH has put together a Worker Health Chartbook for 2000 to track injuries and illness.
- Prevention. NIOSH continues to help industries identify hazards that cause illness and morbidity. For instance, it has made recommendations to telecommunications industry to prevent further fatalities.
- Information/Training. Rosenstock noted that there has been an increase in the number of calls to the NIOSH (800) number and 1.5 million hits per year to its Web site from people seeking information. Fifteen education and research centers for training have been established and training program grants are given annually.
Rosenstock concluded her address by telling attendees about her view of the "new" public health.
"As we move into the future and work becomes more complex, safety and health professionals need to think more holistically," said Rosenstock.
She also encouraged professionals to move into the mainstream of public health, engage in partnerships and support advocacy and legislative solutions to protect workers.
by Virginia Sutcliffe