Observing National Safety Month
June 13, 2022
This June, take some time to join the National Safety Council (NSC) in observing National Safety Month. This annual observance addresses key workplace safety and health topics in order to reduce the hundreds of thousands of preventable occupational injuries and fatalities that occur each year. For this year’s National Safety Month, the NSC is focusing on four primary topics: musculoskeletal disorders, workplace impairment, injury prevention and slips, trips, and falls.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.4 million workers sustained work-related injuries that necessitated treatment from medical professionals in emergency departments in 2019. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 4,764 fatal work injuries in 2020. Going to work should never be a life sentence, and individuals should not have to worry about sustaining significant bodily harm simply from doing their jobs. The NSC’s National Safety Month aims to promote awareness and aid in minimizing known risk factors so that everyone can get home safely each day. We will take a closer look at each of the NSC’s four safety topics for this year’s Safety Month below.
The NSC reports that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), or ergonomic injuries, typically result from exposure to repetitive movements, awkward or static postures and forceful exertions. Not only are musculoskeletal injuries more common than you may think, but they are also the leading cause of disability and retirement for workers. Here are some other important facts on MSDs from the National Safety Council:
- In 2020, there were 247,620 musculoskeletal disorders or illnesses that involved an average of 14 days away from work
- The top three injury events that culminated in MSDs that same year were overexertion involving outside sources, other exertions or bodily reactions and repetitive motion involving micro tasks
- Workers in the following industries were the most affected by MSDs: trade, transportation and utilities, manufacturing and education and health services
- The parts of the body most likely to sustain a musculoskeletal injury are upper extremities, like the shoulder, the trunk area (primarily a person’s back) and lower extremities, such as the knee
- Some of the most common MSDs that workers sustain are carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff tears and back strains
There are many steps that employers can take to reduce MSD hazards in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages employers to implement a range of ergonomic solutions, such as using a device to lift or reposition heavy objects to limit force exertion, repositioning work spaces to eliminate long or excessive reaching, requiring at least two people lift a heavy load and reducing the weight of a load.
The NSC defines impairment as the inability to function normally or safely as a result of several factors, like chemical substances (alcohol, opioids, etc.), physical factors (like fatigue and various medical conditions) and mental distress. Here are some of the key findings of a national employer survey that the NSC conducted in 2020:
- Over 90% of employers said they are concerned about alcohol, opioids, mental health disorders and stress in their workplaces
- 52% said impairment directly endangers the safety of workers
- 70% said they discuss substance impairment (e.g. opioids, cannabis and alcohol) with workers, but only 47% said they discuss other forms of impairment, like stress, mental health and fatigue
- 45% said impairment is causing an increase in near misses
- 39% reported that impairment is causing more injuries
According to the NSC, it is essential to have a clear and robust impairment policy in order to reduce the numerous risks that impairment presents. This policy should include a statement of purpose, a definition of impairment, policies and procedures. Employers should also train supervisors on how to recognize the signs of impairment.
Slips, Trips and Falls
The numbers on slips, trips and falls are shocking. In 2020, these types of incidents were the second leading cause of workplace deaths and the third leading cause of occupational injuries resulting in days away from work. That year, there were 49,250 falls to a lower level and 127,680 falls to the same level. Of these slips, trips and falls, the top three types of injuries were fractures, sprains, strains and tears, and general soreness and pain. Individuals who were injured from falls to a lower level missed an average of 20 days of work and individuals who fell to the same level typically missed around 12. The back, upper extremities like the shoulder or arm, and lower extremities such as the knee, are the most commonly affected body parts in this type of incident.
According to the CPWR, or the Center for Construction Research and Training, the most meaningful ways that employers can support workplace fall prevention programs include:
- Create or revise the current written fall prevention plan. Consider control methods (like installing guardrails), identify fall-related hazards, and determine what types of personal protective equipment (PPE) workers need to stay safe
- Provide comprehensive fall prevention training to workers in a language they can easily understand
- Focus on rescue. Have a plan in place in case a worker does fall, and revisit these plans whenever workers are performing tasks at heights six feet or above
Injury Prevention in the Workplace
Injuries and accidents happen every day on the job – and they happen in a variety of ways. For example, according to the NSC’s data, transportation incidents were the leading cause of workplace fatalities in 2020. The leading cause of illnesses and injuries that caused days away from work that same year, however, was not the same. Instead, exposure to harmful substances or environments was the leading cause of occupational injuries and illnesses in 2020. Altogether, exposure to harmful substances or environments resulted in 424,360 illnesses and injuries with an average of 13 days away from work.
Per the OSH Act, employers are legally obligated to provide a safe and healthy workplace. The OSH Act is a federal labor law that ensures and enforces safe working conditions. In basic terms, this means that employers must provide a workplace free from serious and recognized hazards in addition to complying with other standards, rules, and regulations that the OSH Act mandates. While National Safety Month is a great time for employers to improve upon the measures they can take to safeguard employees from sustaining preventable workplace injuries and illnesses, workplace safety should be a priority every day.
If you sustained an injury at work and have questions about filing a legal claim, someone at our firm can help. To learn more, contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
If you have a question about filing a legal claim, contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.