Home may be sweet, but is it safe?

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

“If you want to be safe today, go to work.” That is a quote from Steve Casner’s book titled “Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds.” I recently finished the book and was surprised to learn the major sources of injuries, and the risks we should be aware of in our day-to-day activities.

At BWC, we have keen insight on occupational accidents and how to prevent them. We are fortunate to have our Division of Safety & Hygiene, which works tirelessly to educate employers on the importance of safety and what they can do to improve conditions in workplaces. And it has worked! Recently Ohio has outperformed the national trend in reducing workplace injuries. Employers and employees throughout the state have gotten the message that safety is important.

The book shows that although occupational safety has made great strides, something happens when we leave work; we forget all that we learned about being safe. We get distracted and take risks, which leads to a growing number of non-work-related injuries and deaths. Consider this: in 2014, just fewer than 3 percent of all unintentional injury fatalities happened at work. For comparison, a shocking 50 percent of these fatalities happened in our homes.

The statistics suggest our homes are dangerous places with disaster lurking around every corner. But how can our “home sweet home” be so full of peril? The book goes on to explain that our workplaces have instituted a culture of safety, training us on doing our jobs safely with rules and checklists. At home, we are pretty much on our own, and the data shows we do a pretty bad job at being safe.

To summarize many of the book’s statistics, I would say – BEWARE OF THE DIY PROJECT. I know many of us take on home improvement projects to save a buck or because we may actually enjoy working around the house. But many of the unintentional injuries happen because we really don’t know what we’re doing. How often do we use the right tool for the right job, and use it correctly? The book says when you take note of the reasons people visit the ER, you realize not many of us have learned how to use tools correctly. We also forgot that we are amateurs and do not put a plan in place for the inevitable errors we will make. When is the last time we put on a harness when we cleaned out the gutters or stood on a chair instead of using a ladder? All too often, these small lapses in judgment end in disaster.

The other issue is that we are all in such a darn hurry! Everyone is flying around trying to pack hundreds of activities into a 24-hour day. We speed in our cars, run through yellow lights, are constantly distracted by our cell phone, and always multi-tasking to get things done. The book clearly illustrates that multi-tasking is useless and dangerous because we can only really pay attention to one thing at a time. And if we realized the risks we take in our cars to save a minute or two, we would clearly understand that the amount of time saved is not worth it.

The same goes for walking. We all learned to look both ways when crossing at the crosswalk, but in 2015 a pedestrian was killed by a car every two hours. And 78 percent of those fatalities happened when people were crossing in a non-intersection. We quickly throw out the window everything we learned in Safety Town to save a minute or two of extra walking.

So what is the solution? How do we take what we know prevents workplace injuries and apply it in our everyday lives? A large part of it is being aware that the real risks to our lives are not murders, shark attacks or airplane crashes, but driving down the street and completing our household chores. It is taking a moment or two to think through how to mitigate risk in our lives and practicing it every day. If nothing else, it is putting our phone down when we’re driving and paying attention to the world around us.

Here at BWC, we are developing an educational campaign to generate awareness of safety behaviors that apply both at home and at work, specifically as it relates to the areas of slip, trips, falls, overexertion and driving. We want to educate all Ohioans on avoiding these types of injuries, and ultimately change behaviors to create a culture of safety that follows Ohioans from work to home and from home to work.

Related
Handout – Safe at Work, Safe at Home

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