Magazine

It's Safer Than Ever to Go to Work


The U.S. workplace might be the safest it has ever been. On Oct. 16, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfatal injuries and illnesses in private industry fell in 2006 to 4.4 per 100 full-time workers—the lowest rate since the agency began keeping such records in 1972. And the fatal injuries rate, at 3.9 per 100,000, is the lowest since the bureau's fatality census began in 1992. While Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO's safety and health director, says that some companies fail to report all nonfatal injuries, the National Safety Council says these figures continue a general decline in both fatal and non-fatal injuries since 1945. Better accident prevention may be one reason for the new low. Loss of factory jobs, the council says, is another.

Like a mutating germ, the spam reaching our in-boxes can change shape quickly. This summer spammers exploited a hole in blockers' defenses, embedding billions of medication and stock-picking ads in Adobe PDF e-mail attachments. In late July, before antispam software learned to recognize them, such PDFs made up 25% of all spam, according to Proofpoint, a computer security firm. By fall, only 1% of spam took the form of PDFs. The latest way to serve spam, says Proofpoint, is in MP3 attachments. Click on one, and an electronic voice promotes, say, penny stocks.

Forget damsels in distress. About 1,000 women were asked by LeaseTrader.com what feature they wanted most in a car. Roadside assistance, considered a hot selling point for women, was picked by just 0.4%. A GPS navigation system: 3%. The top answer by far (62%): fold-down rear seats, for storage. Just how no-nonsense were the responses? The biggest vote-getter (42%) for "least useful" feature: a sunroof. "Women are most concerned with getting from A to B without hassle," says Joanne Helperin, editor of the Driving Woman blog at car site Edmunds.com. Helperin is surprised safety features didn't get more votes. (Antilock brakes got 1%). Top priorities of women on her site, she says, are safety and reliability.

Employees at Serena Software in San Mateo, Calif., aren't just fooling around with Facebook. On Nov. 2 the $255 million business applications company launched Facebook Fridays. The idea is for Serena's staff of 900 (average age, 41) to spend an hour each week on the popular social networking site—updating their profiles, collaborating with colleagues and clients, and recruiting for Serena. The company is also setting up an employees-only group on Facebook as a kind of alternative corporate intranet.The portal will be used to exchange documents, update corporate information, and share marketing videos. Senior Vice-President René Bonvanie, who, with CEO Jeremy Burton, came up with Facebook Friday, says some staffers considered the idea frivolous when it was first proposed. But by using social networking seriously, he says, "we believe we can get people to communicate and collaborate more."

Remember the empty seats at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens? That's not going to be a problem in 2008, when China (pop. 1.3 billion) hosts the games. On Oct. 30, Chinese who didn't get lucky in an earlier round of Olympic seat sales (run by lottery) got a second chance. Sales started at 9 a.m. at Bank of China branches, on the Web, and by telephone. But after selling 9,000 tickets in two hours, the system collapsed under heavy demand. In the first hour alone, Beijing's Olympic Web site got 8 million hits and the ticket booking hotline was flooded with 2 million calls. At 9 p.m. the Web site was still apologizing, promising a new ticket sales method within five days.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has vowed to curb imports of Hummers, proclaiming on Oct. 8 that the luxury car is an affront to his revolution. But oil-rich Venezuela might be better off putting a dent in all domestic car sales, not just the General Motors SUV. Thanks in part to an economic boom fueled by government spending, auto sales are set to hit a record 400,000, from 228,000 in 2005. The downside: Gasoline and diesel fuel consumption has doubled, to about 2.8 million gallons daily—at the subsidized price of 18 cents a gallon. Given Venezuela's falling oil output, this points to less oil for export—and fewer dollars in the treasury. As for Chavez' attack on pricey car imports, to be mounted by limiting access to dollars used for luxury goods, might it be motivated by embarrassment? Many of the 500 Hummers sold this year in Venezuela went to government officials.


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