Every seven seconds…
In the United States, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds. This statistic comes from the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit founded in 1913 that seeks to eliminate the third-leading cause of death: unintentional and preventable injuries.
While safety should be practiced throughout the entire year, National Safety Month is a good time for employers and workers to commit to identifying and appropriately addressing preventable injuries in the workplace. Each year, NSC chooses four safety topics to focus on for the month of June. Each week is then dedicated to exploring those topics in detail.
The topics for National Safety Month 2019 are: Hazard Recognition, Slips, Trips, and Falls, Fatigue, and Impairment
1: Hazard Recognition
One of the biggest causes of workplace injuries and incidents can be traced back to hazards not being identified and dealt with. Hazard recognition may seem simple when it comes to construction or road work sites, but everyday office items and situations such as heavy boxes, open desk drawers, loud noises, and even hot coffee pots are easily ignored and potentially hazardous.
It can become habitual to overlook potential hazards, especially when in a familiar workplace. In order to combat this, NSC recommends that employers and workers endeavor to hone their visual literacy, or their ability to interpret and derive meaning from sight.
2: Slips, Trips, and Falls
According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry; however, slip, trip, and fall hazards can be found in every workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that fatal falls across all industries are, “at their highest levels in the 26 years since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking workplace fatalities.”
Employers must make sure they are providing access to adequate personal protective equipment that may mitigate the risks of slips, trips, and falls for their employees.
Often used to describe a lack of energy or overall tiredness, fatigue is more than just feeling drowsy. Fatigue interferes with normal daily activities and can have serious impacts on workplace health and safety. NSC estimates that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to fatigue.
Fatigue typically comes from not getting enough sleep, which the National Sleep Foundation specifies is seven to nine hours each night for adults. According to CDC, a third of adults in the U.S. report that they usually do not get this recommended amount of sleep.
Impairment can be caused by substances and situations that may impede a worker by producing serious barricades to workplace safety that may lead to dangerous situations. In order to stay safe at work, workers need to be healthy and focused.
Worker impairment can come in many unexpected forms and can be situational, such as exposure to extreme temperatures or cases of workplace harassment; however, the most common workplace impairments come from alcohol abuse and drug misuse.
Alcohol impairment starts with the first drink and can have consequences long after the last drink, especially in the workplace. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 8.7% of America’s full-time workers drink heavily on the job at least once a month. The same study found mining and construction to be the industries with the highest rates of heavy-drinking employees.
While cannabis is becoming increasingly decriminalized and legalized for recreational and medicinal use across the U.S., the use of the drug is raising new safety concerns in the workplace. Additionally, many prescription drugs like opioids can impair employees’ abilities to work or drive safety. And with high rates of opioid overdose deaths occurring in physically demanding industries, employers are encouraged to reach out to their employees if they suspect drug misuse is occurring on or off the worksite.
Participating in National Safety with NSC and NES
Employers and workers can take important steps toward staying safe this month and all year long by using the information above and by downloading and sharing free NSC National Safety Month 2019 safety materials such as posters, tip sheets, and relevant articles.
NSC also encourages employers and workers to take the Safe At Work Pledge. Those who take the pledge promise to always prioritize safety on the jobsite, actively recognize and deal with hazards appropriately, and strive to become good safety role models – even when off the clock.