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April 1992, Vol. 115, No. 4
Richard E. Wokutch and Josetta S. McLaughlin
T his article compares work injury and illness experience in the United States and Japan by examining national work injury and illness data.1 These data are worth studying for a number of reasons. First, the unparalleled growth of the Japanese economy in recent decades has been accompanied by evidence of improvements in Japanese injury and illness experience relative to such experience in the United States. Second, there appear to be major differences in the patterns associated with work injury and illness experiences within the U.S. and Japanese economies. And third, there have been greatly divergent accounts of the safety and health conditions in Japanese industry and in Japanese firms operating in the United States,2 often based on relatively little hard evidence. As direct Japanese investment in the United States continues its explosive growth, assessing this last point with more concrete evidence becomes increasingly important.
We begin with an examination of the nature of work injury and illness data in the United States and in Japan and the factors that complicate comparisons between the two sets of data.
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1 The analysis is adapted from Richard E. Wokutch's soon-to-be-published Worker Protection, Japanese Style: Occupational Safety and Health in the Auto Industry (Ithaca, NY, ILR Press, 1992), which also contains a more general discussion of occupational safety and health issues in the United States and Japan. The implications of Japanese safety and health management techniques for corporate social responsibility are examined in Richard E. Wokutch, "Corporate Social Responsibly Japanese Style,"Academy of Management Executive, May 1990, pp. 56-74.
2 See, for example, Joseph L. Fucini and Suzy Fucini, Working for the Japanese: Inside Mazda's American Auto Plant (New York, The Free Press, 1990); Richard M. Kendall, "Safety management: Japanese-Style," Occupational Hazards, Feb. 8, 1987, pp. 48-51.
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