Iowa holds a record that shouldn’t make anyone proud: the state has the highest rate of worker fatalities and injuries in the Midwest. Iowa Public Radio spoke with public health officials, workers, union leaders, and academics to learn more about the problem and what can be done to remedy it.
Why Iowa Ranks So Poorly in Workplace Safety Health Standards
Iowa Public Radio interviewed the Iowa Department of Health’s Kathy Leinenkugel, asking why Iowa ranks so poorly in terms of workplace safety health standards. Leinenkugel replied that one of the reasons had to do with Iowa’s aging workforce and the high numbers of self-employment.
Rather than working for corporations with safety officers, many agricultural and construction crews (two of the most dangerous jobs in the state and country) are small-time operations. Family businesses and mom and pop-style trades often don’t have the resources, the manpower, or equipment needed to guarantee safety.
Other Hazards for Workers
But the lack of safety equipment and resources aren’t the only dangerous that workers in Iowa are facing. Associate Professor at the University of Iowa Occupational and Environmental Health Department, Carri Casteel, told Iowa Public Radio that violence is the third-leading cause of death in the workplace nationwide, specifically for those working in health care.
Nursing, for example, can be a dangerous field because they can come into contact daily with the following types of people.
- Dementia patients
- Those detoxing from drugs
- People with mental health issues
What’s being done for Iowa’s workers?
Addressing the problem is the first step in the solution. But it will take more than that to make sure that Iowa workers are guaranteed safe workplaces in the state. Casteel told interviewers that a cultural shift with more of an emphasis on workplace safety was occurring throughout the state, which will be a critical factor in decreasing the amount of worker injuries and fatalities in Iowa.
Injured Workers Have Legal Recourse
When a worker is injured on-the-job in Iowa, they have the right to legal recourse. It’s important for injured workers to understand that most businesses are required to carry workers’ compensation (unless part of the aforementioned family agriculture industry) and so can file a workers’ compensation claim for damages.
In the event that someone outside of the workplace (not a co-worker or employee) handled the workplace accident leading to injury, then the injured worker can obtain compensation for a work injury through a third-party claim. An attorney can explain more.
Iowa workers do have recourse. Call Walker, Billingsley & Bair at 888-436-9979 to discuss third-party claims or workers’ compensation for your particular incident.