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A Historical Look At Workplace Safety – 137 Years Of Change

Safety Guidelines Help Protect U.S. Workers

U.S. Workplaces Getting Dramatically Safer

Whether you operate a lab or a manufacturing facility, workplace safety is a key concern. Over the past century, workplace safety has become an increasingly important topic. Key safety initiatives have made workplaces significantly safer in the last four decades.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace deaths are down about 65% – from about 14,000 in 1970 to 4,836 worker deaths in 2015. Even with this dramatic improvement, workplace safety still needs to be a top priority for all organizations.

Here are several key facts about workplace safety in the United States:

More Than A Century Of Progress

One of the earliest surveys of workplace fatalities was conducted in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, from 1906-1907. They found that 526 workers died in accidents, with 195 of these deaths occurring in the steel industry. The number of steelworker deaths decreased dramatically to 17 in the entire U.S. in 1997, according to the Center for Disease Control’s public health research.

The National Safety Council estimated that between 18,000-21,000 U.S. workers died in 1912. The Council also found that from 1933 to 1997, the rate of work-related injuries decreased 90% from 37 per 100,000 workers to 4 per 100,000 workers. Their research found that work-related deaths declined from 14,500 to 5,100 during that same time period, while the workforce grew from 39 million to about 130 million.

According to CDC research, if the current U.S. workforce of 130 million people faced the same working conditions as employees did in 1933, another 40,000 workers would have been killed.

They cited the research, regulatory and educational programs by state and federal governments as well as programs by labor and management as the main drivers in creating safer workplaces.

Although vast improvements have been made, there are still areas that need to be improved. There are several programs that are focused on the remaining high-risk occupations, including firefighters, childhood agricultural injuries, preventing homicide in the workplace and mining safety, according to the CDC.

Know The ‘Fatal Four’

There are four major types of accidents that cause private sector worker deaths – falls, being struck by objects, electrocution and getting caught in or between objects. Known as the “Fatal Four,” these accidents caused more than 64% of all construction worker deaths in 2015, according to OSHA.

By educating employees about these common causes of accidents, more than 600 workers’ lives could be saved.

Going Beyond OSHA Inspections

Both state and federal OSHA inspections play a big part in the U.S. workplace safety. There were 31,948 federal OSHA inspections and 43,105 State Plan inspections in FY 2016.

While these inspections can provide important information about any hazards, it’s important that organizations don’t just rely on inspections to protect their employees.

Most At-Risk Industries For Worker Deaths, Injuries

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by the Savinis & Kane law firm, the agriculture and forestry industry had the highest rate of workplace deaths in Pennsylvania during 2015, with just over 19 per 100,000 workers. This was followed by the mining, quarrying, gas and oil extraction industry, which had 10 deaths per 100,000 workers.

According to the National Safety Council, the top 5 U.S. occupations with the most injuries leading to days out of work include:

1. Service (Includes firefighters and police)
2. Transportation and shipping
3. Manufacturing and production
4. Installation, maintenance and repair
5. Construction

Workplace Safety’s Impact On The Bottom Line

According to the National Safety Council, every 7 seconds there is a workplace injury. This means that every week, there are 90,400 injuries and 4.7 million injuries a year.

Not only does this lead to workmen’s compensation costs and medical bills, there’s also a significant impact on production, in turn affecting a company’s revenue. The National Safety Council found that there were 99 million production days lost to work-related injuries in 2014.

Most Common Types of Injuries

According to the National Safety Council, the top three injuries that result in lost time are sprains, strains or tears; soreness or pain and cuts, lacerations and punctures. The most common cases of injuries are overexertion (35%), contact with objects and/or equipment (25%) and slips, trips and falls (25%).

What Can You Do To Protect Your Employees?

Making workplace safety a priority for your organization starts with understanding the key risks and then educating every member of your team, including full-time, part-time and temporary workers. Training should cover not only physical hazards, but also bloodborne pathogens, ergonomic concerns and other issues.

By thoroughly training each member of the organization, you’re not only protecting them, you’re protecting their teammates and the entire company. Investing in safety leads to happier, more productive employees.

Create A Safer Work Environment

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