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Safe Work in the 21st Century: Education and Training Needs for the Next Decade’s Occupational Safety and Health Personnel
for more OSH professionals at all levels. The authoring committee also concludes that OSH education and training needs to place a much greater emphasis on injury prevention and that current OSH professionals need easier access to more comprehensive and alternative learning experiences. In addition, provision of adequate training for the majority of American workers will depend upon the discovery of new and improved ways of reaching small and mid-sized industries with increasingly decentralized and highly mobile workforces. Ten recommendations address current and future OSH workforces and training programs.
Each day, more than 16,000 Americans are injured on the job (over 6 million each year) and 20 more die as a result of job-related injuries (over 7,000 each year) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998a). The incidence of occupational illness is more difficult to estimate, but a recent study placed the number of new cases in 1992 at 860,000 and the number of deaths as a result of occupational illnesses at 60,000 annually (Leigh et al., 1997). The economic costs of these job-related injuries ($145 billion) and illnesses ($26 billion) are much higher than those for AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease and are on par with those for cancer and for circulatory diseases (Leigh et al., 1997).
The U.S. Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to assure “every working man and woman in the United States safe and healthful working conditions.” This mandate gave rise to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Over the last 30 years, OSHA and NIOSH have implemented education and training programs for employers, workers, and occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals, and these programs are essential tools in reducing the burden of occupational injury and illness.
The work environment has changed considerably in the decades since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed. Injuries and illnesses that were unrecognized at that time now contribute significantly to the present OSH burden. The workforce has also changed, with more women, minorities, and persons with a disability in the workforce now than ever before. In addition, the numbers of workers over 50 years of age and workers under 18 years of age are also increasing. Workplaces have also evolved dramatically as a result of the U.S. economy’s transition from a manufacturing base to services, and now to information and information technology. There have also been profound changes in the way in which work is organized. Distributed work arrangements, flexible matrix- and team-based organizational structures, and nonstandard work arrange-