Health insurance and safety issues refer in general to questions related to risk assessment and risk assumption such as who will bear the risks and the acceptable degree of risk. Answers to these questions have a direct bearing on the situation with employee rights, especially when it comes to the healthy and risk-free workplace. Therefore, employers should take active action to evaluate these risks correctly and address them.
Health risk assessment has become an essential feature of modern organizations that help them avert the danger of future lawsuits. With this purpose in mind, most companies perform a detailed analysis of environments in which their employees are working, trying to identify harmful influences on their health. One popular issue, for instance, relevant to manufacturing is one of exposure to toxic and radioactive materials.
The assessment of the risk here should answer in fact two questions: “How much of the toxic material is the individual going to be exposed to?” and “What amount of toxic material is likely to cause an adverse health effect?” (Kastenberg). This evaluation is typically preceded by hazard identification that occurs based on the knowledge accumulated in toxicology, radiology, and other related sciences. Therefore, risk assessment is driven by highly specialized scientific and medical knowledge that allows an organization to constantly define where the risk to employees’ health is coming from. Risk health assessment is continually improving under the influence of advancement in health science.
The second big issue in the evaluation of safety and health insurance policies is risk assumption. Most organizations will make their employees sign contracts that envisage a certain shift in risk assumption from the organization to the employee. This practice allows companies to reduce their risks and move part of the consequences of health damage to individual employees. From the individual perspective, however, this means a reduction in the obligations of a company. At the same time, there is an increasing trend to offer benefits to employees in the form of various health insurance policies.
Assumption of risk also involves the relationships between insurers and employers. At this time, employers often find themselves with skyrocketing premiums once the smallest risk is determined in the health situation of their employees. Shwartz (2006) cites the case of Marilyn Landis, “the owner of Basic Business Concepts, a financial outsourcing company in Pittsburgh” who said she saw her premiums skyrocket from $900 to $1700 a month just because she turned 53, an age that is set as a limit by insurers. Such practices transfer a large portion of risks to businesses, often those that do not represent any significant risk to insurers.
Thus, employee rights can only be protected well when there is an effective system of risk assessment and risk assumption in place. Risk assessment should be grounded in medical achievements and efficient risk evaluation systems in the workplace. Risk assumption should be based on a fair allocation of risk to different parties, capable of bearing this risk effectively. This combination is the foundation for the effective development of safety and insurance policies.
Kastenberg, W.E. Risk, and Ethics: Social Benefit Vs. Risk. 10 December 2006 <www.nuc.berkeley.edu/courses/classes/NE39/Kb-Risk.ppt>.
Swartz, Katherine. “A health-care safety net: Here’s a plan that could put an end to skyrocketing premiums — and at a relatively low cost to taxpayers.” FORTUNE Magazine, September 22, 2006. 10 December 2006 <http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/09/18/8386181/index.htm>.
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