Worker health

About Worker health

Every year in New York City, workers are injured on the job or become ill as a result of exposure to health hazards at work. However, most work-related illnesses and injuries are preventable –  safer work environments can be achieved when workplace hazards are understood and appropriate prevention measures are put in place.

Data on work-related injuries and illness are used to show how often these preventable events occur and to identify  factors that place workers at risk. These data are also used to design, target and evaluate prevention strategies and regulations that aim to keep workers safe and healthy.

Work, Workplaces and Health

High-quality work benefits physical and mental health in a variety of ways. In addition to economic benefits, work can be a source of identity and pride, an avenue for social participation and a way to learn new skills. Individuals who work have lower rates of illness and live longer than those who are unemployed. On the other hand, unfavorable work environments expose workers to serious health hazards which regularly result in injury, illness, disability and death.

Although many factors contribute to worker health, such as workplace design, organization, worker characteristics and culture, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide safe and healthful workplaces for their workers.

Preventing Workplace Injury and Disease

Both workers and employers play important roles in keeping workplaces safe and healthy.

Employers should:

  • Demonstrate and communicate an ongoing commitment to safety and wellbeing.
  • Eliminate known hazards if possible and design work processes and environments to minimize exposure.
  • Ask workers or their representatives what safety and health issues are most important to them and act on their concerns.
  • Provide safety and health education and resources to all workers.

Workers should:

  • Communicate concerns about potential hazards to their employer in a timely manner.
  • Follow established work safety practices, such as wearing recommended personal protective equipment and following safety protocols.
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Elevated blood lead levels (age 16+)

In New York City, the most common cause of lead poisoning in non-pregnant adults is from working in the construction. Workers are exposed by breathing or ingesting lead dust or fumes during work that disturbs old lead based paint. Workers in other industries, as well as hobbyists, may be at risk if they work with lead-containing metal, paint, pigments, ceramic glazes or bullets. Adults can also be exposed to lead through lead-contaminated products, like some imported health remedies, spices, foods, pottery and cosmetics.

Hospitalizations billed to workers' compensation

Workers' compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. Hospitalizations billed to workers' comp represent only a portion of work-related injuries that require hospital care. It is important to realize that workers' compensation policies vary from state-to-state with respect to the types of workers covered and the types of injuries and illnesses eligible for compensation

Asbestosis hospitalizations

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral which was commonly used as an insulation material until the 1970s. Inhaling high concentrations of asbestos fibers over a long time can produce lung inflammation and scarring resulting in the chronic lung disease called asbestosis, a type of pneumoconiosis. New York City construction, insulation, and shipyard workers who installed, disturbed, or removed asbestos without respiratory protection are at risk. Additionally, smokers who are exposed to asbestos have a greater risk of developing asbestos-related diseases than non-smokers. Typically it takes more than ten years from the time of exposure before symptoms develop. The use of proper protective masks is key to preventing the disease, since there is no treatment.

Pneumoconiosis hospitalizations

Pneumoconiosis is a general term given to any lung disease caused by breathing in certain particles or fibers over a prolonged period. Pneumoconiosis usually results from a workplace exposure. The most common causes of pneumoconiosis include asbestos fibers, silica dust, and coal dust. There is no cure, but it can be prevented with appropriate respiratory protection.

Work-related deaths (all industries)

Fatal work-related injuries include deaths resulting from unintentional injuries such as falls, acute poisonings, and motor vehicle crashes that occur during travel for work, and intentional injuries (i.e., homicides and suicides) that occur at work. Fatal injuries that occur during a commute are not included.

Work-related deaths (construction industry), by borough

Construction is the most dangerous industry in NYC, with nearly a third of work-related injury deaths each year.

Work-related deaths (construction industry), Citywide

Construction is the most dangerous industry in NYC, with nearly a third of work-related injury deaths each year. Falls from scaffolds, ladders and roofs are the most common cause of fatal injuries among construction workers.