Webb Brown Rotundra Photo

Webb Brown, President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

By: Webb Brown, Montana Chamber of Commerce president/CEO

This Labor Day, Montanans have a lot to celebrate.

We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation with a rate of 3.9 percent according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Over the last ten-years, Montana’s Gross State Product has outpaced the national average by more than 4.5 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Wages are rising as more high-skill, high-wage jobs in high-tech, medical, and manufacturing industries come to Montana. Over the last ten-year recorded period (2006-2015) wages have grown by 21.86 percent with the median household income above $49,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All three of these statistics are key metrics for the Montana Chamber of Commerce’s ten-year strategic plan — Envision 2026.

All of this is great news. The chronic problems which have plagued Montana for a generation such as sluggish wage growth and volatile “boom or bust” employment cycles are being addressed due to many factors, include a more diversified economy, high-skilled / high-wage positions becoming more available, and the general growth of our population. These are achievements which is a credit to all workers in Big Sky Country.

However, there is one issue which gives us pause this Labor Day — Montana has one of the highest rates of workplace injuries and fatalities in the nation.

Of the 41 states (and the District of Columbia) which report private industry nonfatal workplace injury and illness rates, Montana had the fourth highest incidence rate with 4.3 incidences per 100 full-time workers. In 2015, 36 workers suffered fatal workplace injuries – a rise from 28 in 2014 and 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While we can discuss these statistics ad nauseum, we need to remember every number has a Montanan behind them. A person whose life will never be the same again. A family who has lost a loved one. A friend we will never see again.

Unfortunately, workplace safety is something too many businesses and employees do not realize they have a problem with until it is too late. We – both employees and employers – need to redouble our effort to make where we work safer.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce is committed to improving workplace safety through programs such as Montana Safety Choices. Partnering with WorkSafeMT, we will be running public awareness campaign to raise the issue of workplace safety in our state’s consciousness. In addition to this, we are providing tools for employees and employers make their workplace safer.

Don’t become another statistic and a heartbreaking loss those you love. Take a few minutes in the next few days to think about how you can make the place where you work safer. Thank you and we hope you enjoyed your Labor Day weekend. Be safe.

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