Don’t Put Safety On The Back Burner

Prioritize A Safe Work Environment

In recognition of National Safety Month in June, businesses and other organizations are encouraged to take time to learn more about preventable injuries at the workplace and what it takes to create a safer workplace for their employees.

"With the best ideas, the right tools and everyone showing up to redefine what's possible, no safety challenge will be too big for us to overcome, from the workplace to any place," says Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC).

Since 1996, when the NSC started National Safety Month, the group has used the annual observance to highlight information, including research, about preventable workplace injury and death, and provide a month's worth of free resources to organizations for June.

Here's a look at data from the National Safety Council and other groups, including statistics about work injuries and a few quick tips on creating and maintaining a safer work environment at your business.


Fatigue Risks

Research estimates that 13 percent of workplace injuries in the U.S. can be attributed to fatigue, according to the NSC.

Most at risk for fatigue and fatigue-related incidents are shift workers, especially those on the night shift, rotating shifts, early morning shifts, long shifts or irregular shifts. Further, fatigue can also affect those who perform a task for extended periods or repeatedly perform a tedious task.

To help prevent fatigue among your staff, try to not overschedule individual employees, even if they want and agree to back-to-back shifts. Also, rearrange and encourage breaks in between long work weeks and shifts when possible, so workers have a chance to rest and recharge.

Overall about 43 percent of U.S. employees say they go to work sleep-deprived -- 62 percent of shift workers complain they cannot get enough sleep. Night-shift workers and those driving during the night hours are especially vulnerable, research indicates.

"Work often requires us to override those natural sleep patterns," the NSC says. "Employees on rotating shifts are particularly vulnerable because they cannot adapt their "body clocks" to an alternative sleep pattern."

About 15 percent of full-time employees in the U.S. work on shifts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other workers who are at risk for fatigue and fatigue-related accidents are those who get less than seven hours of sleep a night, those with untreated sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, parents and caregivers of young children, and people taking certain medications that interfere with sleep, according to data.


Risks with Impairment

In a recent NSC survey, more than half of the companies in the poll said employee impairment is decreasing the safety of their workforce.

"Impairment from a number of causes can delay thinking and reaction time, increase workplace injuries and errors, lead to higher workers' compensation costs, and increase absenteeism and distraction at work," the NSC explains.

Impairment is "anything that could impede an employee's ability to function normally or safely," according to the group's definition.

"Workplace impairment due to substances like alcohol, opioids or cannabis, or physical and mental factors, like fatigue and stress, can negatively affect workplace safety, employee wellbeing and your bottom line," says a post by the National Safety Council.


Preventable Work Injuries

There were 4.53 million work-related injuries reported in 2022, and 4,695 preventable work deaths, according to the latest statistics shared by the NSC.

The most prevalent causes of non-fatal injuries and illnesses involving time off from work in 2022, were overexertion and bodily reaction (1 million-plus cases); contacts with objects and equipment (780,690); slips, trips and falls (674,100); exposure to harmful substances or environments (658,240).

Bodily reaction and overexertion injuries include those that result from excessive physical effort, such as lifting, pushing, turning, holding, carrying, or throwing, or from a repetitive motion task that results in stress or strain on some part of the body.

One way to help avoid these types of risks is to encourage stretch breaks and regularly scheduled work breaks to reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries.

Injuries that were caused by harmful substances or environments include things like exposure to electricity, radiation and noise, temperature extremes, air and water pressure change, oxygen deficiency, or a traumatic or stressful event.

Keep up with regular maintenance checks. Assess possible environment risks to employees and guard against these types of injuries by following guidelines and regulations created by OSHA for your particular type of business and industry.


Stay on Top of Safety Training

Employee training is essential to creating and maintaining workplace safety culture, explains the NSC.  "A well trained workforce is the cornerstone of your safety performance," adds Martin, the group's president.

Provide clear, and ongoing safety training. Don't gloss over or assume that the terms and explanations are already known to employees. Also, employees should be invited to ask specific questions at any time if they do not understand training sessions or materials.


Keep Open Communication

Make it easy for employees to approach you about safety concerns, whether it's about the proper gear and clothing, equipment, or people-related.

Schedule regular safety meetings to help keep communications open. It provides you the opportunity to review safety rules and prevention guidelines and gives employees the chance to provide feedback and/or ask questions or raise concerns.


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