Worker health and safety promotes and protects the well-being of workers by improving working conditions and encouraging a safe workplace. Worker health and safety tries to prevent workers from being around hazardous substances, dangerous tools, and unsafe workplace conditions. This includes preventing long-term contact with harmful substances as well as improving protocols and policies to protect workers from traumatic injury or death.
About Worker Health in New Mexico
People spend a lot of time at work. More than three-quarters of employed Americans work full-time, and one in ten work more than one job. Workers spend approximately 8.1 hours per day at work on average. In New Mexico, 875,000 people aged 16 and older work. Because of how much time people spend at work, unsafe working conditions can have a big impact on social and financial comfort. New Mexico has a lot of workers in industries that are considered dangerous, namely manufacturing, transportation, mining, and oil and gas extraction.
In 2017 New Mexico had a similar rate of work-related illnesses and injuries reported by employers, compared to the rest of the country. Workers most commonly get hurt at work by transportation incidents (such as truck crashes), slips, trips, falls, contact with objects and equipment (such as being injured by machinery), interaction with other people or animals, contact with harmful substances, and fires and explosions. Transportation incidents such as car or truck crashes cause the most deaths of workers in the US. Recently, more workers have been dying from overdose and/or suicide.
Although workers in New Mexico are not more likely to get hurt compared to the rest of the country, they are more likely to die from job-related dangers compared to US workers as a whole. This is most likely because a lot of New Mexico workers are in high-risk work.
Pinpointing a specific cause for a workplace illness can be difficult. Frequently the disease takes many years to show up and may not take hold until years after the person has left the workplace that triggered the illness. The New Mexico Occupational Health Surveillance Program keeps track of many long-term illnesses, including pneumoconiosis, mesothelioma, and elevated blood lead level.
Pneumoconiosis is a lung disease caused by breathing in dust from asbestos, silica, and coal mines. Dust control in the workplace can prevent workers from breathing in dangerous particles and prevent illness and even death from lung disease.
Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer of the chest or abdomen lining. This cancer is almost always caused by breathing in asbestos. Most cases today are from the workplace and could be avoided by taking proper safety measures. Ship builders, insulation manufacturers and installers, and construction workers, including those who work on older buildings, are most likely to breathe in asbestos.
Workers can breathe in lead-containing dust, especially if they work in manufacturing, construction or demolition when the processes used, or areas being worked on, involve lead. Workers can also come in contact with lead in certain paints, or when handling lead bullets. If a worker has high blood lead levels, they should not go back to work until their levels have come back down. Otherwise, they may experience kidney dysfunction, high blood pressure, and neurological effects.
How to Stay Safe and Healthy on the Job
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was put in place protect workers from hazards. New Mexico is a state-plan state, meaning the law is enforced by the state government with approval by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Employers and workers both have rights and responsibilities under OSHA. Some things that workers can do to stay safe are:
- Understand and follow all your employer's health and safety rules
- Always use the personal protective equipment (PPE) your employer provides or requires
- Make sure your PPE fits right and is in good working condition
- Report any safety or health hazards to your supervisor
- If you feel that your workplace is unsafe and your employer doesn't act to fix the problem, you can contact the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau (link in Downloads and Resources below).
Notifiable Diseases or Conditions in New Mexico (N.M.A.C 18.104.22.168)
The following conditions are reportable to the New Mexico Department of Health: Asbestosis, coal worker's pneumoconiosis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mesothelioma, noise induced hearing loss, occupational asthma, occupational burn hospitalization, occupational injury death, occupational pesticide poisoning, occupational traumatic amputation, silicosis, other illnesses or injuries related to occupational exposure. Report to Epidemiology and Response Division, NM Department of Health, P.O. Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM 87502-6110; or call 505-827-0006.