Workplace fatalities are so last century

By Bernard Silkowski, CSP, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

In the course of 20 days that ended on Jan. 14, six employees died on the job in central Ohio.

The news reports indicate that four suffered crushing injuries at three separate manufacturing sites and a loading dock, one fell off a ladder while replacing light fixtures in an office, and one was caught in machinery at a commercial car wash.

The fact that these six deaths occurred in such a short period of time in one part of the state serves to heighten attention to workplace safety. Plain and simple: No worker should die because of a workplace injury.  Sadly, 5,147 workers throughout the U.S. did in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Transportation-related accidents account for more workplace deaths than any other injury causation. In the past year, Ohio workers also were buried in trenches, electrocuted, and struck by falling trees, lumber, and other objects. Others fell off roofs and walls, slid into an auger, and drowned when the equipment they were operating fell into water.  How could this happen?

We should be outraged because proven means to prevent workplace fatalities exist.

Going above and beyond compliance

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations exist because they work. Employers should embrace them and treat them for what they are: minimum compliance requirements. Going above and beyond compliance reduces risk even more. Building safety into processes rather than treating it as an add-on or afterthought reinforces safety expectations and embeds it in the culture. In most cases the benefits go beyond improving safety to increasing quality and productivity as well as reducing workers’ compensation and other costs.

Public employers, this applies to you, too. In fact, injury rates are higher for public employers than private employers. Why? Work is still work and hazards are still hazards. Whether in the private sector or government the same principles of sound safety management apply.

But we trained the employee, you say. She didn’t follow the procedure. He didn’t use common sense. What were they thinking?

All employers have the duty to provide safe and healthful workplaces, and that starts with becoming intimately familiar with OSHA standards to learn the requirements that apply to their work activities. This duty goes beyond simply training employees and handing them personal protective equipment and written safety procedures. It also means managing the process to ensure employees understand the training, wear the PPE and follow the procedures. All the time. It means assigning tasks only to persons who are trained and qualified to perform the work safely.

Assess hazards and be proactive

Critical to all this is performing hazard assessments that identify potential hazards and determine the most appropriate measures to protect the workers. “What could possibly go wrong?” is a good question to ask, while paying particular attention to high-energy and high-consequence hazards such as struck-bys, caught-betweens, chemical exposures and electrical contacts. We all make mistakes and have bad days, so providing robust protection allows for those eventualities. The hierarchy of controls can guide every work planner in choosing effective means of protection.

Two other resources can help employers improve the safety of their workplaces: employees and safety and health professionals. Employees bring to the table their intimate knowledge of the work and practical insights about how to do it more safely.  Safety professionals bring:

  • Understanding of the nuances of regulatory requirements, human error, and injury causation.
  • Skills in hazard assessment, analysis, and facilitation.
  • Knowledge of risk reduction methods, best practices and human behavior.
  • And the entire body of knowledge that makes safety a profession.

Trained to help employers reduce and manage risk, safety professionals can spot the traps that can lead to injury in otherwise well-intentioned efforts. They help everyone see what could possibly go wrong.

Way back in 2000, I was grocery shopping in New England and noticed this saying on the back of another shopper’s company T-shirt: Workplace injuries went out of style in the last century. I was heartened because I thought that reflected a changing attitude toward workplace safety. It’s 19 years later and we’ve made progress as a nation and state but not enough. We should be outraged that workplace injuries and fatalities are still occurring when the means to make major reductions are in the hands of every employer.

One year in, Better You, Better Ohio!™ is improving workers’ health, well-being

By Kristen Dickerson, Ph.D., BWC Health and Wellness Manager

Great news from the Better You, Better Ohio!™ program office! More people are now eligible to get paid to get healthy.

We expanded the program to include all injured workers regardless of comorbidity status and any employer with less than 150 employees. This expansion means more Ohio workers can participate in the program and improve their health. As of today, there are 4,220 Ohio workers enrolled in the program. However, by the time you read this, that number will have grown.

This expansion has also allowed us to schedule on-site biometric screening events at employer locations, as we require at least 30 participants to schedule an on-site event. I’m pleased to report we visited nine employers and provided 442 screenings to employees of Ohio’s small businesses in 2018. This all took place the last two days of November and December!

We already have 22 on-site screening events scheduled for the 2019 program year, with more and more employers finding out about the program. Ohio employers clearly value their workers and understand that keeping them healthy is important to the growth of business.

That’s smart. Current research* shows the importance of employers considering their workers’ base health to maintain a healthy and productive workforce. And that’s our goal with this one-of-a-kind program: to support the Total Worker Health concept. Anything an employer can do to support a healthy workforce benefits both employees and the company.

On-site screenings going well

So far, the on-site screening events have gone smoothly for employers and their employees. BWC partners with ActiveHealth Management to handle the enrollment, registration and scheduling for the employer. Employers only need to supply a little information and select a time and date for their on-site event. We handle setting up and running the screening, only taking employees from their workstations for 10-15 minutes. Feedback from employers has been positive. One employer stated, “This was a great opportunity with little effort on our part. Programs like this make it easy to show employees how much we care about them.”

Our partnership with ActiveHealth also allows us to offer the Better You, Better Ohio! portal, where participants can track their rewards and health from year to year. It also offers health information, allowing every employee to tailor the program to their needs.

Success stories abound

ActiveHealth has reported many Better You, Better Ohio! successes. We have already heard stories about:

  • Participant weight loss.
  • Improvements in physical activity.
  • Improvements in heart health.
  • And participants sharing information with their families.

We would love to see more people participating and getting healthy! Join us by helping to get the word out to more workers and employers who could benefit from the program. It’s free and the benefits are priceless.

We value your overall well-being and encourage you to remember your health is the most important thing you have. If you are interested in the program, visit the Better You, Better Ohio! webpage, or visit the Better You, Better Ohio! portal to sign up today!

*The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Want help “selling safety” within your organization?

Register for our free webinar!

By Cari Gray, CSP, BWC Safety Consultant Specialist

It’s almost time – are you ready? I know, I know… you’ve stayed awake at night wondering why BWC’s safety folks have been silent in the safety webinar education world.

Well, your wait is finally over because we’re hosting our very first safety webinar. And I wanted to let you in on the ground floor.

At 1 p.m.  Jan. 17, you can join me (yep, they’re letting me lead the first one) to discuss what “selling” safety means, how to “sell” safety to different levels in your organization and a high-level intro on measuring safety culture.

Selling safety is an important topic that applies to every company size and business type. After 20 years in the safety field, I have found that safety is sales. You read that right – if you have ANY safety responsibility, you are officially in sales and you are selling to all levels of your organization (or at least you should be).

Join me to learn techniques for selling safety and discover simple ways to measure safety culture. I’ll also let you know about BWC’s free resources to help you achieve workplace safety success.

Register today to discover beginner techniques on embracing safety within your organization and the resources available to measure your safety culture.

This program is approved for 0.1 IACET CEU as well as one-hour (general) recertification credit through the HR Certification Institute.