More than 2.9 million American workers sustained nonfatal injuries on the job in 2016, the latest year for which data is available, according to researchers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, almost 5,200 lost their lives over the same span, the agency found. Several specific worksite dangers continue to disproportionately affect workers, most notably heights and unstable surfaces. These hazards cause slips, trips and falls, which have actually increased in volume as most other injury types have decreased.
Back in 2013, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched National Safety Stand-Down to raise awareness around slips, trips and falls. The week-long occasion takes place annually during the first full week of May. This year’s edition began May 7, 2018, and runs through May 11, 2018. Over the course of the week, OSHA and other workplace safety advocacy organizations will encourage companies across the country to conduct safety stand-downs, which can take the form of relaxed discussions or more formalized training activities centered on properly navigating potential workplace hazards. Businesses that embrace the occasion are encouraged to report back to OSHA and download certifications that indicate participation.
Addressing a serious issue
As stated above, slips, trips and falls continue to occur despite across-the-board improvement in workplace safety culture in the U.S. Workers in the construction and manufacturing spaces are particularly vulnerable to these incidents, according to OSHA. Slips, trips and falls took the lives of 384 construction workers in 2016, and accounted for 19 percent of all injuries that occurred in manufacturing during that year. Why are these injuries so common?
Most can be attributed to human error, analysts for the American Society of Safety Engineers found. In the hustle and bustle of everyday activity, many workers simply forget to consider best practices, swapping safety for speed. This strategy results in more than half of all slips, trips and falls, according to the ASSE. Slippery or wet surfaces account for roughly 25 percent, while housekeeping oversight is linked to 16 percent of such injuries. The ASSE attributes the conditions that catalyze slips, trips and falls to four problematic workplace states: complacency, fatigue, frustration and haste.
Complacency leads to ineffective housekeeping and hazard-management strategies while fatigue, frustration and haste lay the groundwork for human error. Consequently, the ASSE advises businesses – especially those in the construction and manufacturing spaces – to address these underlying states rather than focusing solely on obvious dangers. For example, firms that emphasize appropriate walking speeds and thoughtful movement reduce rushing in the operation, transforming potential tripping hazards, should they exist, into easy-to-avoid dangers.
Raising optimal awareness
Responsible employers use National Safety Stand-Down to encourage these kinds of behaviors and address more technical issues related to slips, trips and falls. The deployment of fall protection gear is among the most effective and talked-about methods for reducing workplace injuries related to these events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Harnesses and helmets literally save lives, yet an estimated 70 percent of workers in the roofing, siding and sheet metal application niches do not have access to these critical tools, the CDC found. In addition to taking on conspicuous dangers such as rooftops and scaffolding, businesses use the occasion to tackle lesser known dangers, such as slightly elevated machinery. Between 2011 and 2017, approximately 74 workers died falling from equipment, according to the CDC. As a result, workplace safety specialists encourage users to mount and dismount such machinery carefully and to avoid risky maneuvers such as jumping off platforms or carrying large materials or tools onto industrial equipment. Other dangers, such as rooftop skylights and ladders, also gain significant attention during National Safety Stand-Down, as these features are the driving force behind large numbers of nonfatal and fatal injuries.
Enterprises across the U.S. have planned hundreds of events for 2018 National Safety Stand-Down, including major regional summits designed to address all manner of workplace hazards. Businesses in the construction and manufacturing industries, in particular, should consider hosting their own sessions or take some time to discuss worker safety because.