The index of harm: a measure for comparing occupational risk across industries

by Kenneth A. Solomon, Kirsten A. Alesch

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This paper presents an index-of-harm methodology that compares occupational risk among workers exposed to radiological and nonradiological harms. It extends the work of the International Commission on Radiological Protection by considering American rather than European and Japanese industry groups, by treating the relative importance of various occupational harms as a parameter rather than an arbitrary constant, and by identifying several ways in which both the methodology and the database could be improved. The authors examine the risk affects of six occupational harms--three nonradiological (death, accidental injury, and disease or illness) and three radiological (somatic effects, genetic effects, and somatic effects to the fetuses or embryos of pregnant women). The authors performed their analysis under five different assumptions about the relative importance of averting the six harms in question. The results of this analysis show that radiological workers exposed to the current industry average of 0.35 rem/year are among the safest of all industry groupings, and the riskiest industries appear to be mining; agriculture, forestry, and fisheries; construction; transportation; and manufacturing, roughly in that order.

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