Workplace Safety: How Are We Doing?

Work-related injuries occur every single day in the United States. While we’ve come a long way from the days of the Industrial Revolution, it’s still a fact that workers in all industries and occupations are exposed to injury risks each and every day.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries in the U.S. in 2017. These numbers demonstrate how common it is for all kinds of people, no matter their job, to get injured on the job and miss time from work as a result.

Every employee has the right to a hazard-free and safe working environment – unless you’re one of the 30,000 employees in Congress, but that’s a different story for another time. Here’s what you need to know about hazards in the workplace and what you can do to stay safe.

The Alarming Rate of Work-Related Injuries

If you’re left with any doubt regarding the need for greater workplace wellness around the globe, check out the statistics: The National Safety Council has found that every seven seconds in the United States, a worker is injured on the job. That translates to:

  • 510 injuries per hour
  • 12,600 injuries per day
  • 88,500 injuries per week

The National Safety Council also states each work injury accounts for three weeks of lost work days per worker. That average means some people may not lose any time at work at all, while others may be develop long-term disabilities as a result from injuries suffered at work.

It’s also important to note that these statistics only reflect reported workplace injuries. There may be many injuries that workers never report — and for which they never receive medical treatment.

The Most Common Workplace Injuries

There’s a wide variety of injuries that can result from accidents in the workplace. The workplace injury statistics reported by the National Safety Council (linked above) list these as the most common that occur on the job:

  • Pain and soreness: Chronic back pain is one of the most common work-related complaints of office workers who must sit for hours per day.
  • Strains, sprains, and tears: Injuries to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles can be the result of stretching, twisting, overexertion, or overuse at work.
  • Lacerations, cuts, and punctures: These injuries may vary in severity. Some require a bandage while others stitches, but they can all cause physical limitations at work.

The Most Common Workplace Injuries Resulting in Missed Work

The injuries listed above also correspond to the most common workplace injuries that result in missed time from work. These include:

  • Slips, falls, and trips: Falls can cause many different types of trauma, whether it’s slipping on a wet floor and hitting your head or falling from a ladder.
  • Overexertion: Repetitive stresses, such as bending, lifting and lowering, can lead to injury.
  • Contact with equipment and objects: This includes being crushed by machinery, struck by objects, hit by falling objects, or struck by falling equipment or structures.

The Most Dangerous Occupations

There are some lines of work that are more dangerous than others. If you work in one of these industries, then you’re more likely to suffer from an injury while on the job:

  • Transportation and shipping
  • Construction
  • Public services, such as police officers and firefighters
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Maintenance, repair, and installation
  • Healthcare, such as nurses and doctors
  • Arts and entertainment
  • Agriculture

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), construction workers are at the highest risk for injuries in the workplace that result in death. In 2016, 21.1% of the fatalities that occurred in private industry were in the field of construction. The job site risks that account for these numbers are referred to as OSHA’s “fatal four,” which are:

  • Being struck by objects
  • Falls
  • Electrocution
  • Being trapped between objects

These risks also happen to be closely linked to many of the safety violations commonly found in the workplace.

Safety in the Workplace Today

Even though you may be a lot safer at work than your predecessors were a century ago, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found a 7% increase in the number of fatal workplace injuries from 2015 to 2016.

There are measures employers can take to make things safer for you. These include:

  • Better training: This is one of the best steps to prevent injuries in the workplace. Employees must have access to safety training.
  • Using signs and labels: These are effective and cost-efficient ways to communicate important safety information. Pictures to detail proper procedures and hazards can be used and are great safety reminders for even the most experienced worker.
  • Access to the right equipment and tools: The right equipment and tools create a safer work environment. It’s also important to ensure all equipment is regularly inspected, serviced, and cleaned.
  • Stretch breaks: Too much sitting can be a hazard to your health too, which is why all office workers should be encouraged to take frequent stretch breaks throughout the day.
  • Encourage an open dialogue: Employers should have an open-door policy when it comes to concerns about health and safety in the workplace. Appointing a safety captain to be the mediator between management and employees can be a great help.
  • Bring in an expert: If a professional health and safety touch is needed, then bringing in an occupational health and safety specialist for an evaluation is key.

Workplace safety is a serious issue, and it is the responsibility of every employer to make sure their full-time, part-time, and temporary workers have a safe environment to do their jobs. If you need help understanding more about workplace safety or your rights, then the U.S. Department of Labor can help.

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Brooke Faulkner is a mother of two and wilderness enthusiast. When she's not writing, she can usually be found zipping around the mountains on her ATV.

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