In this 2-part blog series, we will discuss the most prevalent workplace injuries, what causes them and ways they can be reduced. Part I focuses on two of the three top work injury events.
The Basic Facts
A study was completed in 2019 by the National Safety Council, compiling injury facts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With a work injury occurring every 7 seconds, this accumulates to more than 4.6 million injuries per year.
The top three injury events (1) Overexertion, (2) Contact with Objects & Equipment and (3) Slips, Trips & Falls; account for nearly 90% of all injuries that occur at the workplace. These resulted in approximately 104 million lost production days in 2017 (NSC Workplace Injuries).
In 2018, 5,250 workers died on the job with more than 20% in the construction industry preliminarily attributed to (i) falls and (ii) being struck by objects. (OSHA Stats)
Although in the last 100 years we have eliminated nearly 80% of workplace fatalities, the most hazardous occupations remain on the most-dangerous list – construction, factory work, agriculture and mining. Today, however we are also concerned about things like ergonomics and the dangers of sedentary work. Industries are taking a more holistic view of safety and health so every employee can end their work day in the same or better condition as when they started it.
These figures are quite sobering however, they are mostly preventable with proper planning. Businesses will often incorporate what is referred to as the three ”E’s” for Safety Success. These controls in order are: (1) Engineer out as many risks as possible, (2) Educate employees on the risks inherent in their jobs and what the employer and employees can do about them, and (3) Enforce policies to ensure compliance with best practices for safety.
Overexertion is an injury risk faced by many industrial workers who perform strenuous tasks over a long period of time. Overexertion is a major cause of sprain/strain injuries and inflammation of joints and ligaments that result from excessive physical effort. According to the National Safety Council, overexertion is the third leading cause of unintentional injuries, accounting for about 3.3 million emergency room visits, annually. (AG Safety: OSU)
Overexertion can be avoided by EDUCATING employees on the following strategies:
- Look to avoid working in an awkward posture. This can place too much stress on the wrong part of your body. Place objects as close to you as possible. Keep your body positioned square to your work. Remember, your toes should always point in the same direction as your nose, so avoid bending, reaching and twisting when lifting. (EHS Today)
- Limit the amount of weight you carry, give yourself enough room to work in a neutral position and keep tools in good working condition. Also, stretching and warming up is imperative before heavy lifting or strenuous activity.
- Repetitive jobs create muscle tension because they don't allow the muscles enough time to recover. Repeating certain movements for long periods of time can also increase your stress level, causing you to become tense. It's important to take frequent, short breaks and even stretch when possible.
- The demands of the job must match the capabilities of the worker. This requires special training so all employees know how to perform their job safely.
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The Object Is to be Safe at Work
One of the leading causes of work-related deaths is contact with objects. This includes:
- Struck against an object
- Struck by an object
- Caught in an object or equipment
- Caught in collapsing material
Objects that fall, roll, fly, slide, slip and swing can do serious damage to a person. Construction workers hit by building materials, vehicles slipping off of jacks, loggers struck by trees – all have a high fatality rate, but all can be prevented.
About 75% of struck-by fatalities involve heavy equipment, such as trucks or cranes (Industrial Safety & Hygiene News). Workers in agriculture, construction and manufacturing are most at risk, but firefighters, police, transportation employees, office workers and others also can count contact with objects in the top three causes of death and injury. (EHS Today)
Inattention to surroundings and being distracted can lead to injury, as does faulty equipment, lack of proper training, improper behavior by workers, or lack of workplace assessments and housekeeping. Paying attention is vitally important for those operating machinery, as well as those working around it. Once again, prevention of injuries and deaths caused by objects falls under adherence to the 3 E’s of Safety:
- Check vehicles before use to make sure they are in safe operating condition
- Securely and neatly store loose materials
- Secure items that are stored at a height
- Store heavy objects close to the floor
- Open one filing cabinet drawer at a time to prevent a tip-over
- Wear the proper personal protective equipment for your environment, such as steel-toed shoes and a hard hat
- Always walk behind moving equipment if possible
- Never obstruct your vision by overloading moving equipment
- Only operate equipment you are properly trained to use
- Make sure all safety devices on your equipment are in good working order before use
- Use extra caution around corners and near doorways
- When large equipment is being operated, always make eye contact with the operator before approaching
- Secure all loads and lift them evenly to prevent them from slipping
When employees are proactive and employers provide proper education on job-specific hazards, conduct safety assessments, address gaps and provide corrective action, the risk of being struck by an object at work is dramatically reduced.
BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR PART II OF OUR BLOG “REDUCING WORKPLACE INJURIES” TO COME MONDAY 6/8.