Fatal Workplace Injuries – Workplace Fatality Hazards are Poorly Assessed
In 2014, there were 4,679 fatal work injuries according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s an increase of 2% over 2013 in 2015 there were 4,836, in 2016 there were 5,190, in 2017 date is not final but again indicates an increase in workplace fatalities.
No one expects to go to work and not come home. All of our efforts to reduce fatalities in the workplace have not been successful in steadily reducing the number of people who die at their workplace. The increases in fatalities came from mining (up 17 percent), agriculture (up 14 percent) and manufacturing (up 9 percent) and recording accident (2,083 fatalities) in 2016..
The number of fatalities among workers over 55 years old was the highest level ever recorded by the Center of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) (2016).
There were 697 fatalities in “falls to a lower level” in 2016.
The news media has helped us recognize an increase in occupational fatalities among police officers (an increase of 17% over 2013).
The highest rate of fatalities per 100,000 Full-Time Employees (FTE) was the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector at 24.9/100,000 FTE.
There were 1,865 transportation related fatalities which is 40% of the overall total for 2014.
Few businesses—large or small—ever fully recover from an on-the-job fatality.
Sadly, most of the efforts in safety toward reduction is focused on the frequency of injuries not the severity. The most common approach, again sadly, is to focus on past-or recurrent injuries. Do you really want to wait until someone dies to take action?
Neglected are those situations where the possibility is low but the severity is high. Good examples include: 1) Confined spaces-where confined space programs don’t exist-the most likelihood is a multiple fatality event! 2) Electrical hazards – In industry, few pieces of equipment operate on 110 volts; most are 220, 440, or 660 volts which can instantly kill where a lock-out/tag-out system is not present—or not followed. 3) Falls in construction are most likely to result in serious injury or death where harness are not worn, barricades not used, or temporary railing not installed. 4) Fire/explosionflammable liquid vessels not explosion proof, or not properly bonded and grounded. 5) There are many more!!
Honestly, identifying these “fatality hazards” is not common sense. It takes an experienced safety professional with knowledge of the specific industry, equipment and operations, and safety science to identify the real conditions, and events that may seldom occur but with the likelihood that if a particular event occurs, the possibility of a fatality is high.
Incidentally, OSHA has no mechanism to differentiate conditions that assess the potential for a fatal event—before it happens. The highest—non repeat—citation is “serious” which does not assign severity. Only a fatality gives OSHA the authority to seek action appropriate to the event—too late for at least one-or-more-person(s).
There are private organizations that assist in addressing the potential for severe or fatal injuries or illnesses, and their audit procedures are quite effective from standard safety program audits and field inspections.
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