Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ubiquity, Context and Perspective

Work-related injury, illness and disease and the efforts to prevent them are ubiquitous. Every developed nation and most of the developing world has some form of occupational safety and health protection for workers and methods of compensation where work is the cause (or of significant contributing cause). The diversity of legislative and social approaches to occupational safety and health as well as compensation results in a range of policy alternatives and perspectives. There is no one ‘right way’ or system to protect workers nor is there any guarantee that the approaches of one jurisdiction will work in another. The diversity, however, may generate ideas or insights that may help policy makers in determining the direction of their systems.

Context is important. We hear of developments in workers’ compensation systems or results that are couched in positive terms. Without some context about the system, it is often difficult for those outside the jurisdiction concerned to interpret the results.

The ubiquity of workers’ compensation systems among the most developed nations creates an opportunity for comparison and a kind of early warning system for workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety systems. Many of the posts in this blog will focus on comparisons. Comparisons, however, are generally made from something more familiar to something more abstract. I am Canadian, working for an exclusive ‘state fund’ workers’ compensation system with the mandate for both the compensation of work-related injuries and illnesses and injuries. It is from this vantage point that this blog is developed. For those of you who work inside or with WorkSafeBC, you will understand this perspective. If you work in a jurisdiction with a state fund, you will recognize a similar view. If you work in a system dominated by private insurers or where workers’ compensation is a national concern, you may see some things differently. The perspectives you hold and develop on the issues in this blog are also welcome and will add to the learning experience this blog intends to foster.