Rapidly Changing U.S. Workforce Faces Safety Risks, Health and Economic Consequences

U.S. employers face complex challenges ranging from the estimated $263 billion economic burden of worker injuries and illnesses to a rapidly changing workforce and the costly consequences of work-related stress and chronic disease management. Contingent workers, who have non-traditional employer relationships and will make up 40 percent America’s workforce by 2020, have up to twice the risk of on-the-job injuries compared to traditional employees. Workers who are 65 and older, a population which grew by 117 percent from 1994 to 2014, have approximately four times the rate of fatalities of workers ages 18 to 24. However, there are practical steps businesses can take to address these concerns, improve the safety and health of their workforce and increase productivity.

Business Pulse: Workplace Safety and Health, launched today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation, focuses on innovative employer strategies for emerging worker safety and health issues while also addressing well-recognized workplace hazards and exposures by using science-based solutions from CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

“Today's on-demand, global economy is redefining what it means to be an employee,” said Dr. L. Casey Chosewood, Director, Office for Total Worker Health®, NIOSH. “More of us work part-time, contract our services and have multiple employers while balancing competing work and family demands. Our nation faces significant health and economic consequences as the nature of work transforms and the workforce becomes increasingly diverse and more health-challenged. Organizations that understand this new reality, and commit to protecting the safety and health of all workers‎, will better serve their customers and communities and be better positioned for sustainable growth.”

Five critical challenges businesses face are:

  1. Work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities
  2. Temporary or contingent workers’ safety and health risks
  3. An aging workforce
  4. Work-related stress
  5. Costly chronic conditions related to work

This issue of Business Pulse highlights these challenges, as well as CDC solutions, and includes a question and answer feature with Chosewood and Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Business Pulse: Workplace Safety and Health also features an interactive infographic that provides useful facts and links to NIOSH programs that help employers protect and promote the health of all workers, along with online CDC resources.

Business Pulse: Workplace Safety and Health is the ninth in a series of quarterly business features created by the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization. Support for this issue of Business Pulse is provided by The California Endowment. Other Business Pulse topics to date include business continuity, safe healthcare, global health security, travelers’ health, flu prevention, healthy workforce, heart health, and food safety.