Leading Causes of Injuries: Safety Topics - February 2018 - Week 1


Monday - Top 5 Work Related Injuries

According to the National Safety Council, there were 169,936 preventable deaths in 2017.  Out of 47.2 million documented workplace injuries, these accounted for $1 billion in costs!  Despite a downward trend over the last 5 years, workplace injuries continue to take a toll on American families and individuals. The top causes we will talk about this week account for up to 80% of all workplace injuries in the U.S.  and will review some examples of each cause and how to prevent them.

Slips, Trips, & Falls

While the severity of this type of injury in construction is often worse than in manufacturing, packaging, or other work environments, slip, trip, or fall injuries can be significant despite the industry.  Wherever we walk or climb, the potential for injury exists.

There are different types of events that are classified under this type of injury:

  • Slips and trips without falling: These are injuries associated with an employee catching themselves before falling from a slip or trip.   An example would be grabbing a railing and spraining a thumb.
  • Falling on the same level: This is falling into or over objects on the same plane, such as walls or equipment. An example could be an office worker leaning back in a chair and then falling and hitting their head on the wall resulting in a neck sprain or concussion.  This is the most common.
  • Falling to a lower level: This includes falls from collapsing structures like scaffolding or falling from ladders, catwalks, roofs, etc.
  • Jumping to a lower level: A jumping injury falls under this category although jumping is a voluntary action and is controlled through behavior.

Prevent falls with risk analysis and establishing good controls.  Whenever working from a height is a requirement, there are associated risks.  Plan ahead, assess the hazards, and use the right equipment for the job.  When climbing stairs or ladders, remember the 3-points of contact rule: two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand at all times.  If you have elevated surfaces at your work facility, review the standards for fall protection and guarding. Keep a watchful eye for slip, trip, & fall hazards at all times.

Tuesday - Muscle Strains and Repetitive Motion

According to ‘Injury Facts 2016’, over-exertion injuries contribute to 35% of all workplace injuries and 25% of the total of workers compensation costs in the United States. Over-exertion injuries are also the number one reason for lost work days. Unlike falls or lacerations, sprains and strains are non-impact injuries resulting from over-exertion of some type. Some can be acute injuries as a direct cause or effect of improper lifting, pushing, and turning. On the other hand, chronic or cumulative disorders can occur over time because of bad ergonomics, poor lifting habits, or other tasks that are associated with over-exertion.  They can include injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs.

There are things you can do to help prevent these types of injuries:

  • Stretching and warming up before a shift can help reduce the risk of muscles tightening up while on the job.
  • Plan the lift.  Are there tools or equipment that can help reduce the amount or frequency of the lifting task?
  • Take breaks from repetitive work. Ask for variation either through cross training or as a preventative strategy.
  • If you work at a desk, take breaks often to walk around, stretch the wrists and fingers, and have an ergonomic friendly setup.

Whether you are injured on the shop floor, typing at a computer, playing video games, or carrying a couch up some stairs, it’s important to know the signs. Report discomfort right away and make your employer aware of the issue.  Keeping communication lines open allows a plan to be developed to help the healing process begin. Ask your supervisor for accommodations to reduce aggravating the injury. Sometimes a recordable injury can be alleviated by taking action early on and allowing the injury to improve through the application of first aid. During first aid treatments, make sure to let your employer know whether or not your condition is improving. If the injury is believed to be work related, make sure to see your employer’s occupational medical provider so that provisions for returning to full work status can be coordinated.

Wednesday - Contact with Objects and Equipment

Lacerations, pinch points, nip points, entanglement, crushing, entrapment…everywhere you look in the workplace, there are injuries and hazards lurking in the shadows, and sometimes in plain sight. People will come into contact with things in the workplace to complete their work. Many of the hazards that can cause minor recordable injuries most often only have a behavioral control associated with them. For example, while using a box cutter, the safe behavior is cutting away from your body; however, is there a safer way or a safer knife to take the behavioral dependency out of the equation?  Questions like this can be applied any time an employee is using any piece of equipment or tool in the workplace.

Many manufacturing locations may have older equipment that does not meet the more stringent standards set for modern machine guarding and other safety devices.  Simple tasks like opening boxes seem mundane and harmless enough and the job of loading material onto a press and pushing a button has been done countless times without incident.   However, with the same small amount of poor judgement or lapse in concentration, either task can result in a medically recordable injury.

We can take the most common object interactions and develop prevention programs specific to observing and countering identified hazards.  Use rigorous and dedicated training programs to emphasize workplace hazards, the controls utilized to minimize risk, and to make sure that colleagues are trained in the proper use of tools and machinery.

  • Machine Guarding Program – Evaluate all machines for proper guarding.  If you can put a body part near the hazard, it’s too close.
  • Laceration Control Program – Evaluate manual handling tasks that have potential cut hazards.  Go beyond the PPE and seek to reduce interaction with sharp objects all together.
  • Training and Active Assessment – Evaluate operator skills and competency.
  • PPE and JSA Assessments - Use a cross functional Safety Action Team to observe tasks and offer suggestions for improvement.

Thursday - Vehicle Accidents

Accidents involving vehicles are the most deadly incidents.  According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatalities involving transportation were more than double those of Slips, Trips, & Falls in 2017.  Much like falls, fatal incidents for this type of accident have been rising over the last 5 years.  The reason for this is due to the increase of vehicles being used in the work force.

There are a number of variables that can cause accidents involving vehicles:

  • Mechanical – failures of critical components
  • Weather – conditions can change even during the work day catching operators unprepared
  • Health and Rest – long business trips or delivery schedules can create fatigue
  • Distracted Driving – the leading contributor to vehicle accidents, which includes texting and talking on the phone

Stay aware! While you might not be the hazard, a driver in another vehicle could be. How often have you noticed a driver near you on the road who is using their phone? Does that lower or increase your awareness of that vehicle and the hazard it presents to you?  The same can be said for ‘off the road’ vehicle operations. Is that crane operator on your construction crew fully recovered from the party he was bragging about last night?  Was that colleague who hopped on a ride-along pallet jack trained to be safe?

Some people don’t take ‘Defensive Driving’ classes unless they have received a traffic citation.  However, some of the principles they teach can be valuable skill sets in the workplace while operating any type of vehicle.

  • Aim High - look far beyond just the immediate space in front of your vehicle
  • Capture the Big Picture – pay attention to variables that may affect how others operate vehicles, such as distraction or obstacles
  • Keep Your Eyes Moving – constantly scan your surroundings to ensure a 360-degree awareness
  • Have an Exit Strategy – don’t put yourself in a position in which evasive maneuvers would be difficult or impossible
  • Be Visible – make yourself as obvious as possible: While on the roadways, turn on your vehicle’s lights even in the day time.  As a pedestrian, make sure drivers see you by looking at them and seeing whether or not they notice.

Friday - Off the Job Safety

In addition to the vehicular safety mentioned on Thursday’s topic, safety off the job deserves consideration as well.  In fact, more than 18,000 Americans die every year from injuries sustained in the home.  In fact, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, there are 21 million medical visits each year for injuries that occur at home. In addition to taking care of yourself, you might be responsible for caring for younger children, older parents, or extended family members.

Slips, Trips, & Falls - Much like the industrial and work environment statistics, slips, trips, & falls carry a heavy toll at home.  Falls are especially common among the elderly. One in three Americans 65 and older will suffer some type of fall. The elderly are more susceptible to life threatening head trauma, lacerations, and hip fractures resulting from falls. Pay attention to your home environment so that slip, trip, & fall hazards are corrected.

Falls from Heights – Many home-related injuries involve falling from ladders.  How many times have you improvised while changing a light bulb or leaning for a hard to reach object?  Having the right tools in the home, such as a step ladder with hand rails, is a good start.  Having the appropriate sized ladder for every need you have in your home is a must. But remember, never step on the top 2 rungs of a ladder to reach a task!

Poisoning, Burns, and Drowning – Up to 3.4 million of these types of injuries occur with children annually in the U.S., and they account for 2,300 fatalities for persons aged 15 and under. Children are naturally curious and that curiosity is satisfied by touching, reaching, climbing, and tasting what they’re after. There are lots of resources to help parents understand the trends for child injuries in the home and to increase awareness around potential hazards. Start with the Children’s Safety Network at www.childrensafetynetwork.org

Risky Behavior - Teens and young adults can be injured when they do not take risks seriously and act recklessly when handling guns, power tools, and appliances, or even enjoying swimming pools, boats, ATVs, or skateboards.  Much like equipment and vehicles in the workplace, these things should have the same precautions applied to prevent injuries. What PPE is available for teenagers in your home? You and your family members may want to get trained in First Aid and CPR, especially if you are caregivers for elderly parents.

Keep safety as a value in your heart. With the right attitude at work, at home, or at play, your safety voice is always present, reminding you to take the extra time to assess the potential dangers and take appropriate precautions.

Tags: safety topics , injury prevention , industrial hygiene , osha training basics ,

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