The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released “25 Years of Worker Injury, Illness, and Fatality Case Data,” which reveals that since 1972, there has been a downward trend in the number of workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities among U.S. employees.
Workplace Safety Incidents in the Past 25 Years
In the past 25 years, about 1.5 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses caused a worker to miss at least a day of work. Although the total number of missed days decreased over the years, the rate of job transfers or restrictions due to a work-related injury or illness increased.
In 1992, a total of 6,217 fatalities happened in the workplace. This reduced by 17 percent in 2016, when workplace deaths amounted to 5,190. In the same year, about 14 deaths occurred per day, which means that every 102 minutes, an employee died from a work injury.
The construction, manufacturing, and transportation industries still experience the most number of workplace fatalities, with heavy tractor-trailer driving being the most fatal occupation. Other jobs that are more exposed to health risks include construction laborers, carpenters, taxi drivers and chauffeurs, and frontline supervisors.
The Employer’s Responsibility
Despite the declining number of workplace health incidents, there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure the safety of employees while they’re on the job. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Law, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their employees. This includes compliance with OSHA standards and protocols and the provision of safety training and equipment.
Employers must double their efforts in ensuring the safety of their workers while at work, and this starts by changing their mindsets toward workplace safety and health (WSH). First, companies must stop looking at WSH as a cost to minimize to create a more sustainable and ingrained culture of risk prevention. Economizing at the expense of employees’ health can lead to greater costs in the long run.
One of the ways to support this mindset is to invest in durable and high-quality safety equipment, especially if your company is in one of the more risk-exposed industries. Provide essential gear, like heavy-duty reinforced rigger gloves, hard hats, and safety goggles for your employees. It’s also crucial to ensure that they use these personal protective equipment while on the job or on-site.
Another way is to have a regular report on the safety incidents that occur in the company. This will allow employers to keep track of hazard trends and other relevant info, like which department or day of the week sees the most accidents.
Second, companies must shift away from thinking that the worker’s individual health is not the employer’s responsibility. Workers spend the majority of their day in the workplace so it’s bound to contribute to their overall health. When employees are not healthy, accidents are likelier to occur. For example, dizziness may lead to loss of consciousness.
To keep an eye on their employee’s personal health, companies can implement annual physical check-ups. This will help them know which workers have conditions like diabetes, asthma, or anemia, and may need special medical attention.
Being free from harm in the workplace is one of the basic needs of employees. Creating a safe and secure workplace will not only ensure the health of workers, but it will also maximize the productivity of the company’s operations.