Why were workplace injury statistics left out of Lincoln Vital Signs report?
The 2017 Lincoln Vital Signs report produced by Prosper Lincoln was an interesting and wide- ranging report about demographics and the economy in Lincoln. (Anyone who is interested can read the entire report by clicking here.) But the exclusion of information about workplace safety in Lincoln was puzzling and possibly telling.
In a report chock full of statistics about safety and the workforce in Lincoln, there was no mention about the number of workplace injuries and/or deaths in Lincoln. The Nebraska Workers Compensation Court tracks workplace injuries and deaths statewide. In Fiscal Year 2016, the last year statistics were available, there were nearly 40,000 reported workplace injuries in Nebraska and 40 reported workplace deaths. By a rough estimate, nearly 6000 of those workplace injuries would have taken place in Lincoln and roughly six of those workplace deaths would have taken place in Lincoln.
By way of comparison, from 2006-2016 Lincoln averaged roughly six homicides per year. In short being killed on the job and being killed in a murder are as about as common in Lincoln. In fact, last year a convenience store clerk was murdered on the job in northwest Lincoln.
There is an old adage that goes “Measure what counts and what counts is measured.” If workforce deaths and injuries aren’t measured in Propser Lincoln’s “Vital Signs” does that mean that workplace safety doesn’t count in Lincoln, Nebraska because it wasn’t measured?
It might be harsh to conclude that workplace safety doesn’t matter to groups like Prosper Lincoln, but if you look at who is behind Prosper Lincoln you can see why concerns about workplace safety may have been excluded. Propser Lincoln is heavy on voices from the business community, government, academia and the non-profit sector. There aren’t a lot of voices for employees who are part of Propser Lincoln. I believe that many of these people, some of who I am friends with, are for the most part well-meaning but live in such a white-collar world that the idea of getting hurt at work is almost far-fetched. Maybe this cloistered mindset explains why a supposedly comprehensive report about Lincoln’s economy excludes information about workplace safety. Maybe the same mindset explains ignoring fairly well-publicized links between work injuries and poverty.
City and local governments can take actions to promote workplace safety. Many cities have taken actions to protect convenience store clerks and and other retail workers who work overnight shifts. Sometimes occupational safety and public safety are thought of as separate topics, but protecting retail workers is something that comprises both public and occupational safety. Protecting retail workers from violence in Lincoln would be a good first step, counting workplace fatalities and injuries within the City of Lincoln would be another.