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Scary Statistics: Motivation for Safer Work Practices

Keep these numbers in mind as you work to improve your safety program. Don't be a statistic!

  • More than 42% of all fall-related deaths result from falls from stairs or steps. Falls from beds rate second at 10% and falls from ladders are third at 9%.
  • Each year, more than 100 workers are killed and about 90,000 are injured in forklift-related accidents.
  • The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says about 90 employees die each year in confined space accidents.
  • About 2.4 million eye injuries occur in the U.S. each year.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 340,870 recordable cases involving sprains, strains and tears in 2011.
  • Misusing electricity causes nearly 10% of work-related fatalities, not to mention injuries and property damage.
  • Nearly half of all workers’ compensation costs reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics each year represent ergonomic-related disorders.

Safety Tips

Are Hazards Hiding in Plain Sight?

Personnel tasked with protecting employees know that managing safety is not always the simplest task. Sometimes, it seems as if there are too many details, too much paperwork and too much stress involved in keeping employees safe on the job. As a result, it is easy to see why so many safety problems get overlooked or fall through the cracks.

Ironically, the safety issues that go unchecked are often the most obvious ones. In trying to do a thorough job, many managers and supervisors search for hidden dangers in the work environment and fail to see the hazards that are right under their noses.

Here are a few simple ways you can identify potential hazards to avoid accidents and injuries:

  1. Make sure work stations and the areas around them, including individual work stations, are clean and orderly.
  2. Take a look at the floor and other walking surfaces such as platforms, etc. Have you taken steps to make sure these surfaces are slip-resistant? You should have rules in place to make sure all walking surfaces are kept dry. In situations where this is not possible, you and your employees should follow safety procures to prevent slips, trips and falls. For example, place a "Caution: Wet Floor" floor stand or sign where needed to ensure employees are aware of the hazard.
  3. Proper lighting is another area where problems tend to crop up. From an ergonomics standpoint, proper lighting is important for employees who work on computers and may have to contend with glare issues. Proper lighting is also extremely important in stairwells. Unfortunately, these areas tend to be darker than other work areas, when they should be brighter. Stairs are among the most common work-related fall hazards and proper lighting is essential to help employees stay on their feet. Replace burnt bulbs as soon as possible.

Every now and then, it is a good idea to step back and look at the big picture. Take time to reflect on the basics and to make sure you are doing what you can to prevent common hazards from turning into accidents.

Supervisor Corner

The Role of Employee Communication in Reporting and Preventing Accidents

Today's workers face a variety of hazards on the job, including:

  • Being caught in machinery or equipment.
  • Being struck by work materials or moving parts
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Vehicle-related accidents
  • Confined spaces
  • Fires and explosions
  • Natural disasters
  • Workplace violence

Despite your best efforts, there are likely to be hazards in your facility that cannot be eliminated due to the very nature of the work being performed. Unfortunately, for many companies, the presence of hazards means the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Just consider this statistic, courtesy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): Nearly 24,000 employees are injured during every eight-hour workday.

The good news is that hazards do not have to lead to accidents. A thorough job hazard analysis will allow you to look closely at processes and procedures, and then take the necessary steps to reduce risks to workers. Employee education can help reinforce any changes that result from your analyses.

Accident vs. Incident

When it comes to reporting and recording things that go wrong on the job, OSHA differentiates between the terms accident, incident and near miss. The agency uses the National Safety Council’s definition of accident as “an undesired event that results in personal injury or property damage."

An incident, as described by OSHA, is “an unplanned, undesired event that adversely affects completion of a task.”

Finally, OSHA describes a near miss as “an incident where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.”

Employee Responsibilities

Given the fact that mishaps will occur, it is important that employees know what to do in the aftermath of an accident, incident or near miss. However, employees must first understand their responsibilities related to the identification and reporting of workplace hazards.

Employees should be instructed to:

  1. Speak up if they have concerns. This means going to managers or supervisors when they have questions involving any safety issue.
  2. Report problems with machinery or equipment, as well as personal protective equipment. The “wait and see if something goes wrong” approach is unacceptable.
  3. Know how to respond in an emergency situation, including the specific personnel to notify.
  4. Know how to respond if an accident occurs, including how to summon first aid responders.
  5. Report every near miss, even if it appears minor. Small incidents can lead to big problems when they go unreported.

The Accident Report

If injuries or illnesses occur as a result of an accident in the workplace, OSHA specifies that form 301 be completed. Many organizations create a separate form that becomes an important tool in driving the investigative process following an accident. Employees directly involved in an accident, as well as any witnesses, should be interviewed so they can provide details relating to what they observed prior to, during and after the accident.

It’s a good idea to review your company’s accident report form with employees as part of your regular safety training efforts. Doing so will help to ensure workers:

  • Know the kinds of questions they may be asked if they are interviewed
  • Become more vigilant and observant when performing their work
  • Understand the investigative process and the type of information that is used to determine the cause of accidents.

Most accident report forms contain a section referring to “contributing factors.” Examples of contributing factors might include:

  • A flying piece of material
  • An equipment malfunction
  • A chemical leak
  • An electrical short
  • A slippery surface

Standard Procedures Post-Incident

If your facility experiences an accident, incident or near miss, it is important to take time to determine what went wrong and why. You should be able to confirm the following:

  • All accidents, incidents and near misses are investigated to determine the cause(s).
  • Upon completion of an accident investigation, information is disseminated to all employees explaining what happened, why it happened and the steps that have been taken to prevent similar incidents down the road.
  • Regular meetings are held to keep employees up to date on safety issues in the workplace.