June is National Safety Month. This four-week event is observed annually to help people stay safe at home, at work, and on the road. In recognition of this month, we’ve put together weekly content to educate readers about major causes of accidents and injury. Last week, we discussed ways to protect yourself during an active shooter event. For the last week of this event, we look into the role that ergonomics and safety programs play in improving injury-prone occupations.
Whether they work in a cubicle or on a construction site, safety in the workplace is paramount for employees. No worker wants to deal with the insurmountable hospital bills that can occur from a serious injury on the job, or the life-altering effects an injury can have on your well-being and livelihood. Unfortunately, accidents in the workplace continue to happen every day in our country.
In 2015, there were approximately 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries, according to the most recent data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There was also a total of 4,836 fatal work injuries in the same year.
Some of these injuries involve serious falls or environmental hazards, such as falling debris and moving vehicles. Others are less dramatic, but still highly detrimental to millions of workers in our nation, including musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive stress disorders which develop due to poor ergonomics.
Workplace injuries are particularly rampant in industries that require long hours and extensive physical labor, including nursing and residential care, manufacturing/production, maintenance and repair, waste management, and construction.
In order to help keep employees working in these fields safe on the job, new and improved safety initiatives have been put in place. In recognition of National Safety Month, we will focus on the three work industries that are most susceptible to injuries and what is being done to keep workers safe.
Taking Care of Nurses
Nurses are the backbone of the medical industry, but unfortunately, many of them are succumbing to injuries on a daily basis. Every year, there are more than 3,500 back and other injuries among nursing employees — severe enough that they have to miss work, according to the BLS.
Nursing assistants and orderlies sustain approximately three times the rate of back and other musculoskeletal injuries than construction laborers, with the majority of these injuries being from the everyday moving and lifting of patients and other instances of poor ergonomics, according to NPR.
Several states have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to nurse injuries by requiring hospitals to have safe patient handling programs that include:
- Proper patient lifting training for all nurses, caregivers, or lifting teams
- Policies that advocate minimal lifting and patient assessment tools
- Providing equipment such as ceiling mounted lifts and slide sheets for lateral transfer
Recently, the American Nurses Association (ANA) started a new initiative called Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation to help prevent nurses from sustaining injuries on the job. This program works to make sure that both nurses and partner organizations take action within five key areas: nutrition, sleep, quality of life, activity, and safety.
Employers and employees will work together to make sure that nurses are getting adequate breaks and rest, have healthy food options, and aren’t putting excess stress on their bodies that may result in injuries.
Pamela Cipriano, the president of the ANA, hopes the challenge will lead to workplaces ensuring that nurses get the ergonomics training and support they need to help avoid injuries.
“We have acknowledged that nursing is dangerous work. It’s a serious concern. We want to make a major social change. It just makes sense: If you improve the lives of nurses, it helps everyone,” Cipriano told Yahoo News.
Safety Oversight for Construction Workers
Construction work is always ongoing, as population growth results in a demand for new residential buildings, stores, and homes. As workers try to meet this demand, tragic accidents occur that results in injuries and even fatalities.
In 2015, 937 construction workers died on the job due to falls, being hit by objects, electrocution, and being caught-in/between equipment or objects, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Falls are the main cause of death for workers — a grim 350 of the 937 fatalities were due to fall-related accidents.
In order to help prevent these deaths from occurring on construction worksites, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and OSHA teamed up to support National Safety Stand Down to Prevent Falls in Construction.
National Safety Stand Down focuses on employers talking directly to construction workers about safety on the worksite and reinforcing the importance of fall prevention, hazards, and the company’s safety policies. Also, this program serves as an important opportunity for employees to talk to their bosses about any fall hazards they encounter.
Local government agencies are also taking steps to keep construction workers safe. A new bill in New York will require contractors to report information on any injuries or deaths that occur on a construction site, according to the New York Daily News. Construction companies that do not report this information will face a fine up to $25,000.
“We’ll be able to see who’s getting hurt, where and why so that we as a city can make construction safer. We must count every life,” Councilman Ben Kallos told the Daily News.
The bill will also require construction sites under 10 stories to hire a superintendent who will be in charge of keeping the site safe. Currently, construction on 1, 2, and 3-family homes require a superintendent on site.
Slow Down for Sanitation Workers
Garbage collection is a vital part of our everyday life as it helps to keep our neighborhoods clean and free of rodents and pests. However, for sanitation workers, it can be a perilous job that can result in injuries and even death.
Waste material collection is the fifth most dangerous job in the country, according to the BLS. From 2003 to 2009, there were approximately 85 fatalities a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A majority of these deaths were a result of vehicle collisions and rollovers.
Over the past few years, things have not gotten better for waste collectors with a total of 98 deaths in the U.S. between July 2015 and June 2016, according to the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). 11 of these fatalities were the result of a sanitation worker being hit by a vehicle while out on the road.
In order to help keep sanitation workers safe on the job, several states have passed laws. On May 1, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into legislation a law that requires motorists to slow down, safely change lanes if possible, and operate with due caution around garbage trucks when emergency lights are flashing, according to the Cape May County Herald.
“This law is about the safety of waste industry workers who serve our communities statewide, everyday. All New Jersey motorists are now to exercise caution and must slow down to get around sanitation vehicles, which will save lives and prevent unnecessary accidents and injuries,” John Wohlrab, Director of Government Relations for the Greater Mid-Atlantic Area for Waste Management, told the Cape May County Herald.
With the passing of this law, New Jersey becomes the 15th state to enact legislation that helps to protect waste and recycling workers.
Have You Been Injured on the Job?
Industries like nursing, construction, and waste management may have a higher susceptibility to accidents, but injuries can happen in any occupation.
Every worker needs to feel safe and comfortable in their workplace. That’s why employers should make sure that employees are properly trained in ergonomics procedures and are aware of all workplace safety policies. However, sometimes an unavoidable accident can still occur.
If you suffered an injury on the job and your workers’ compensation claim was denied, we may be able to help.