The International Labour Organization continues by stating, 317 million accidents occur on the job annually; many of these resulting in extended absences from work. The human cost of this daily adversity is vast and the economic burden of poor occupational safety and health practices is estimated at 4 percent of global Gross Domestic Product each year. So that means, more than 2.3 million deaths each year are a result of working. To me that seems a bit alarming, but why is that and how can we decrease these numbers?
Many organizations look at OSHA requirements as a burden and find that they can be difficult and cumbersome to accomplish the tasks at hand. However, many lives have been saved since the introduction of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. According to the AFL-CIO in their 2016 edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect more than 532,000 workers lives have been saved since this passage of that act.
Now, if you are anything like me you think to yourself, well that is not a great set of numbers considering it has been 47 years since the act of 1970 and only accounts for 532,000 lives saved or 11,319 per year. As for those 532,000 people, this is a great statistic, but what about the ones that were not saved…you know the other 2.3 million people per year?
To answer this questions you have to consider the overall facts and the numbers associated with it. Many of these deaths occur in developing countries where health and safety policies are not really considered when performing a task or a job. As for the United States of America, only 4,821 workers were killed in 2014 from work-related injuries. Although that number is significantly less than the originally reported 2.3 million, there is still an opportunity to save more.
As for the United States of America, only 4,821 workers were killed in 2014 from work-related injuries. Although that number is significantly less than the originally reported 2.3 million, there is still an opportunity to save more.
Over the course of my career both in emergency medical services and the health and safety industry, I have found that many companies preach safety but do not follow safety. The question then becomes why do you talk safety if you do not perform safely? When I would ask these questions, often times I would get answers like, “well because OSHA says we have to” or I would get statements like, “what’s the big deal, nothing has ever happened before” Folks, I will tell you that just because it has not happened yet, does not mean that it won’t. More than likely, your organization is quickly running out of time before it does.
When I would ask these questions, often times I would get answers like, “well because OSHA says we have to” or I would get statements like, “what’s the big deal, nothing has ever happened before” Folks, I will tell you that just because it has not happened yet, does not mean that it won’t. More than likely, your organization is quickly running out of time before it does.
On the other hand, I have worked with some amazing organizations that take employee safety very seriously and have either encounter incidents that have made them change their safety culture, or they realized the benefit of a strong safety presence and value their employees.
What are your options?
If you are thinking to yourself that your organization could use some work? Well, I will tell you that there are many options, however, it won’t happen overnight. Consider these steps.
- Understand the job and how it can affect the safety of your employee.
- What safety measurements do you have in place currently?
- Are these measurements up to standards?
- Do your employees believe in these standards?
- If they don’t, find out why. (Because often they skip safety steps because they are cumbersome. As a company find ways to make it more efficient)
- Do your managers follow the same standards?
- Make sure to remind employees about their safety, but do not preach it because employees will lose interest.
- Create an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable to report safety issues.
- Constantly evaluate your culture and change as necessary.
- Reach out to companies that provide health and safety for consultations or overall management of these procedures.
By no means is this a foolproof system. There will always be employees that will break the standards, however, when you have a culture that appreciates safety, those employees will either join the cause or will quickly move on. Over time, you will see that safety becomes a natural part of your everyday workforce. and it is no longer something that makes you say, “How did he die, we have always done that and we have never had a problem before.”
And consider this, if you make the necessary changes, hopefully, you will never find yourself saying something like this, “How did he die? We have always done it that way and we have never had a problem before.”
About the Author:
Jason McLaughlin is the General Manager of SALA Remote Medics. He has been in the Emergency Medical Services Field for 17 years and has a Degree in Organizational Leadership and Emergency Management from Colorado State University.