Safety Matters


Here’s Your Sign!

Almost everywhere there is another sign, poster, message, tweet or blog about safety. Safety is a national obsession. Safety, we are told, is job 1.

Various permutations of safety spawn forth on almost a daily basis in various forms of risk management, loss control, safety engineering, industrial hygiene, and other disciplines. This is due in part to changes in law, technology, and even the economy. Preventing or mitigating accidents just makes sense.

The loss of a breadwinner or a family member is devastating. Any accident has severe consequences for a business or organization. This we know. So the real issue is not why but how?

How do we get people to pay attention or increase awareness? And, how can we encourage them, if they see the warning signs and red flags, not to ignore them? How can we change attitudes? How do we increase not just knowledge, but understanding?

These are difficult questions. Whole departments (safety, risk, loss control) in some organizations are dedicated to answering these questions. Every year the various levels of local, state, and federal government pass thousands of new laws and regulations in the name of safety. When safety morphs into the dreaded word compliance, this alone makes safety challenging, As a risk engineer and safety consultant I find that I, too, must dedicate an increasing amount of time on almost a weekly, if not daily basis in keeping up with the new changes, mandates and constant revisions.

By the Numbers

For the last 15 years the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has released its Workplace Safety Index, a ranking of the top 10 leading causes of workplace injuries and their costs in terms of workers compensation. The 2014 Workplace Safety Index (using data from 2012), ranks workplace injuries and comp costs as follows:

1. Overexertion $15.1B 25.3%
2. Falls on same level $9.19B 15.4%
3. Struck by object or equipment $5.3B 8.9%
4. Falls to lower level $5.12B 8.6%
5. Other exertions or bodily reactions $4.27B 7.2%
6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle $3.18B   5.3%
7. Slip or trip without fall $2.17B 3.6%
8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects $2.1B 3.5%
9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks $1.84B 3.1%
10. Struck against object or equipment $1.76B 2.9%

The Real Costs

The true costs of accidents are much greater and often hidden. For example, this chart does not tell us that fatal injuries to truck drivers increased in 2010, 2011, and 2012 ( U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Other transportation related statistics from the BLS show:

  • For delivery drivers, 13 percent of the injuries and illnesses were due to transportation incidents, which trailed overexertion and bodily reaction (41 percent); falls, slips, and trips (23 percent); and contact with object or equipment (19 percent).
  • For tractor-trailer drivers, the leading causes of nonfatal cases also were overexertion and bodily reaction (35 percent); falls, slips, and trips (30 percent); contact with object or equipment (17 percent); and transportation incidents (14 percent).
  • Among injured tractor-trailer truck drivers with injuries requiring days away from work, 62 percent were age 45 or older.
  • The median number of days away from work for tractor-trailer truck drivers was 19, and the median for delivery truck drivers was 15.

Truck drivers experienced higher than average rates of both fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses compared with all private industry occupations in 2012. Over the 2003 to 2012 period, the number of both fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses to truck drivers decreased. The majority of fatal injuries were from transportation incidents, although nonfatal cases were more likely caused by overexertion, falls, and contact with objects.— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The numbers show that driving is a hazard prone profession and we need to continue to put forward our best efforts in creating work environments in which safety matters.

J Taratuta John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599