It was on April 28, 1971, that Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Fifty years later, we continue to make the promise and strive for safer work conditions and practices that help ensure our employees make it home safe. As we remember the lives of those lost to preventable workplace accidents, we also remember those who suffered from exposures to hazards causing illness, injury, and life-long lasting effects.
2019 saw 5,333 fatal work injuries in the US alone, a 2% increase from 2018. To put that number into perspective, a person died every 99 minutes from a work-related injury. This represents the largest annual number of fatal work injuries since 2007.
NIOSH Director, Dr. John Howard once said, “April 28 is all about the men and women who paid the ultimate price for earning a paycheck,” Howard continued, “ – and what we can do to prevent future workplace fatalities.” STEP wants to thank all of the EHS managers, supporting staff, and employees who work every day to ensure the safety and health of all employees, and we want to suggest five tips that we believe can help back your safety and health efforts:
1. Integrate a Safety and Health Program: The basis for a safe work environment is an effective accident prevention and health program. Safety and Health (S&H) programs help companies to:
a. Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
b. Improve compliance with laws and regulations.
c. Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers' compensation premiums.
Your S&H program should cover all levels of employee safety and health and encourage employees to report hazardous practices, conditions, or behaviors.
2. Conduct pre-placement physicals. Some accidents are caused by inexperience and the inability to physically perform the position. Screening applicants is a safeguard for placement with the appropriate positions matching their physical capabilities.
3. Train your employees. Training improves skills, knowledge, and confidence in an employee’s performance. Proper training results in job efficiency, effectiveness, and safety. Train your employees to understand the risks involved with their job tasks and why taking the sometimes-extra-steps to ensure safety is not just for them, but for their coworkers as well. Remember, safety is a team effort!
4. Good Housekeeping. Poor housekeeping can cause serious health and safety hazards and reflects how your company looks to outside contractors, visitors, and employees. The layout of the workplace should have clear footpath markings, be clean and free of debris, and stations for cleaning up spills.
5. Don’t take shortcuts. Working quickly to get the job done is one of many ways that an employee can set themselves up for disaster. Skipping steps, even the small ones, can lead to missed safety procedures, lack of quality in the work, and an inflated sense of how much can be done in a work shift. Make sure all instructions are clear and organized to prevent undue mishaps in the workplace and encourage workers to employee safety and assurance over completion rate.
What can you do to bring awareness to this day at your facility?
There are numerous events planned this week to help EHS professionals acknowledge Worker’s Memorial Day. OSHA has listed both national and state events at this link https://www.osha.gov/workers-memorial/workers-memorial-day
You can also plan something more specific to your own facility including:
Coordinating a moment of silence to remember those who have died on the job and to highlight job safety problems in your workplace.
Planting a tree (with a dedication plaque) in remembrance of members who died in the workplace.
Flying flags at half-mast at your workplace and union hall.
Wearing black ribbons or armbands at your workplace.
Creating and publishing digital fliers on social media and organizing a call-in to congressional representatives during lunchtimes or break times. Tell your members of Congress to support stronger safety and health regulations and worker safety and health protections.
Conducting workshops to educate workers about job safety hazards and how to exercise job safety rights.
Creating a memorial at a workplace or in a community where employees have lost their lives on the job.