Fatal workplace injuries across the country are on the rise. In 2016, 5,190 workers were involved in fatal workplace accidents, showing a 7% increase from 2015 and marking the third consecutive annual increase according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On average, 15 American workers die every day from job injuries.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) believe America’s workers deserve better. But what is causing the increase in fatal occupational injuries to begin with?
Transportation incidents remain the most common fatal work injury in the United States. Distracted driving across the nation has reached exponential levels, and the more an employee is on the road for work, the more chances to become involved in a vehicle accident they encounter. It’s up to the employers to educate their employees on the dangers of distracted driving on a regular basis and to limit the expectations for responding to phone calls and texts while they are physically driving.
Violence On The Job
Violence in the workplace is the second-most common cause of occupational fatalities, increasing by 23% in the 2016 report. OSHA reports over 2-million American workers are victims of workplace violence and many cases continue to go unreported. Exchanging money, alcohol and drug use (both at work and in the home), the time of day a shift is completed, the location of the workplace, and an employee’s mental and emotional health, are all factors that can contribute to fatal violence in the workplace. OSHA provides training for employers and suggested polices to prevent violence, but these must be strictly enforced to have an impact on reducing the behavior- often times, they are not.
Opioid Crisis At Work
The opioid crisis across the United States has been a hot topic in the news for quite some time, and that includes within the American workplace. In 2016, the number of overdose deaths occurring on the job increased by 32%. When workers are under the influence, their lack of judgment can cause horrific errors, resulting in serious injuries that can lead to permanent disabilities and death. Employers who do not drug test employees, or choose to overlook an opioid addiction, are unnecessarily putting their staff at risk for injuring themselves or other coworkers around them.
Lack of Equal Attention and Oversight
OSHA reports injury and fatality rates have declined or remained stable within the industries they have focused the majority of their resources. But when examining industries where fewer resources have been placed, such as healthcare and food services, fatal workplace injuries have shown a significant increase. Without the presence of OSHA and other safety advocates, workplaces tend to be less inclined to review and improve their own safety measures, even if it means preventing fatal injuries.
Fewer Safety Workers
Budget cuts have slowly decreased the amount of OSHA workers in the field, making the tasks of overseeing companies and employers increasingly difficult. Fewer safety workers and reviews mean the opportunity for increased workplace injuries and deaths to occur. Without the involvement of OSHA, blatant unsafe practices may not be corrected and guidance for making improvements are left up to employers to seek out independently.
The Solution: Employers Need to Act
OSHA officials plan to reduce workplace fatalities through enforcement, education, compliance assistance, training, and education. The Department of Labor plans to work with private and public sectors to help spread awareness of the opioid crisis in our workplace. But it cannot be the sole job of these safety agencies to make sure employers are keeping their workers safe.
Employers need to take action. It is their responsibility to follow the necessary steps in providing appropriate safety equipment, conducting internal safety trainings, and continuing to educate themselves on safety standards of their industry. Safety is essential for employees and should be seen as such by every employer who wishes to run a successful business.
Connecticut Workplace Injury Experts
Most workplace injuries are preventable and can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating to an employee. If you have sustained a workplace injury as a result of an unsafe work environment, call Jacobs & Wallace at (203) 332-7700 for a free consultation to discuss your case.