It has been a little over one year since A Job to Die For was released. I’m here today to share with you some of what I have learned about taking occupational safety and health issues to the public.
I chose to speak to you about the disconnect between reality and public perception because I think it presents such great potential to garner public interest and support.
These are what I see as the top 5 problems with reaching the public. These misperceptions act like filters that people screen information through. Without them, I believe the public would not only be curious about workplace injuries and illnesses, many would be concerned and some would become actively involved. This applies to the mainstream media as well; if reporters and editors did not hold these mistaken notions or parts of them, I think there would be more coverage and investigative journalism on workplace safety and health issues.
My book proposal was rejected by 32 publishers, 38 if you count the ones I submitted to multiple times. One editor actually wrote on the proposal cover “The public isn’t interested in this stuff.” It was not the quality of the book proposal; I had had that reviewed. It was the mindset of the editors.
First, the stigma of workers comp. Imagine for a moment an injured worker — what image did you see? What do you think that image is in the general public?
There is such little concern or sympathy for injured and ill workers. A large reason for this, I believe, is that many people believe that injured workers (or, said another way, people on workers comp) are cheats, frauds and malingerers. No one has sympathy for a faker.
When I was interviewing injured and ill workers for the book, they kept telling me about their Workers’ Compensation problems, how they were denied or given delayed treatments or benefits, how they were shuffled from doctor to doctor and how this made their conditions worse, how many were followed by private investigators . .