Silverstein outlines safety challenges of today’s workforce

November 2, 2011

Philadelphia – Current laws do not address some of the new features of today’s workforce, according to Michael Silverstein, assistant director for industrial safety and health at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

The issue was one of four strategic priorities Silverstein identified during the occupational keynote at the 2011 NSC Congress & Expo on Nov. 1.

Some of the features not addressed by law include a workforce that is multicultural, multilingual and aging, as well as new technologies such as nanotechnology, he said. Other concerns Silverstein pointed out include lack of coverage for public workers in some states; lack of a regulatory structure for musculoskeletal disorders; and “ancient” hazards that still have to be addressed, such as trench hazards. He suggested that trench violations may need to automatically be considered a willful violation because the hazards and protective measures are well known.

Silverstein also noted the measurable impact of his agency’s work, citing a study that found companies that had been inspected and cited by L&I had lower workers’ compensation costs.