Every June, the National Safety Council (NSC) observes National Safety Month. Workplace safety has perhaps never been more relevant than right now in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The United States continues to see growing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
While many employees have been working from home, others deemed essential have been working overtime. This June, National Safety Month will have a special focus on the topics of mental health, ergonomics, building a safety culture, and driving.
Fears about contracting coronavirus at work are prevalent. However, even before the pandemic arrived, the U.S. statistics on workplace injuries and fatal work accidents were notable. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 5,000 Americans died because of workplace injuries in 2019, continuing a five year upward trend.
Although the number of non-fatal injuries are steady, every year there are still more than 4 million people who suffer workplace injuries that need medical attention. Most of these injuries are preventable, which is why National Safety Month is so important.
Every employer has a responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace. It is also vital that employers provide education and training for their employees about workplace safety. During National Safety Month, employers and employees alike should use this opportunity to consider how to prevent unnecessary injuries and fatalities.
Across all industries, there are certain types of workplace injuries that affect large numbers of employees. BLS data shows that in 2019, overexertion, most frequently related to the back, was the number one workplace injury.
Overexertion injuries include sprains and strains and are usually caused by working in awkward positions, lifting heavy objects, and are caused in jobs that require repetitive motions. Workers with overexertion injuries can experience acute pain, and without proper treatment, these injuries can become chronic and develop into serious health problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis.
Employers can prevent these injuries by following ergonomic guidelines prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This year’s National Safety Month includes a special focus on workplace ergonomics.
The second most common cause of non-fatal workplace injuries in 2019 were related to falls. These accidents can happen anywhere to anyone and is surprisingly common in office environments.
Objects left in hallways, spilled coffee, uneven flooring, and texting while walking causes many slip and fall accidents. Properly cleaning and organizing combined with sufficient lighting and signage can help avoid many of these preventable accidents.
Contact with objects or equipment also led to significant injuries in 2019. This includes moving objects striking workers, workers bumping into or stepping on equipment, workers being pushed or thrown against objects, and vibration injuries. Additionally, workers are at risk for getting caught in moving equipment or being crushed by equipment or collapsing materials.
Object-related accidents are most prevalent in service industries, but these accidents can also happen in manufacturing environments or on constructions sites. It is important to always be safe while working and be mindful of objects that can harm you.
Contact with objects also frequently results in cuts and lacerations to workers. These injuries can be prevented by the proper use of safety guards on dangerous equipment, establishing traffic patterns in work zones, securing heavy loads and loose materials, and following manufacturer’s instructions for installation and deconstruction of equipment, such as scaffolding and cranes. Objects cause many construction accidents, so it is crucial to always be aware while on the job.
Additionally, work-related violence also causes many injuries. Workplace violence can occur in diverse settings, such as health care, retail, and other service industries. Work-related violence is also seen in law enforcement and government offices.
Under OSHA guidelines, the best protection employers can offer is establishing a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence. All employees should know that any claims of workplace violence will be investigated and promptly remedied. Personal safety training programs can also help employees learn how to recognize and avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations.
Moreover, transportation accidents, such as car accidents, are a top cause of work-related injuries and is also highlighted in this year’s National Safety Month. The National Safety Council sees this as particularly urgent because transportation accidents are the leading cause of work-related fatalities.
Driver error causes more than 90 percent of all motor vehicle crashes, including drowsy driving, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Whether driving is an occupation or a job duty, it is important for workers to regularly review safe driving habits, such as always wearing a seat belt.
Now more than ever, the mental well-being of employees is vital. Untreated mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and addiction can lead to an increase in absenteeism, presenteeism, and substance abuse resulting in higher rates of employee turnover, disability, and unemployment. Continued high stress levels are associated with higher risk of developing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
For employers and workers stressed by changes in the workplace related to COVID-19, the NSC has a comprehensive page dealing with federal guidelines for returning to work after quarantine. The NSC also has the most up-to-date safety information and practices available.
June is a great month for employers and employees to come together and improve safety for everyone. It is important for everyone to recognize common work-related accidents and injuries in order to help prevent them. During this month, everyone can spread safety awareness, and learn about safe practices that can be implemented at work.
Unfortunately, work accidents can still happen. If a worker suffers a work-related injury or illness, he or she is entitled to Workers’ Compensation. Additionally, injured or sickened workers should seek legal counsel. An experienced lawyer will help maximize compensation and protect your rights.
If you were injured at work or while doing a work-related task outside of work, our team can help you. Our Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. will evaluate your case and work tirelessly to get you the compensation you need to recover. Call us at 800-243-6095 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.
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