Eleven years ago a tragic event occurred here in the US, one in which several thousand people lost their lives or were seriously injured. While that incident is not emblematic of workplace events, certainly many who died in those events that day were on duty doing their job within what we would call their workplace. But going beyond that isolated event and taking a look at what we hope is our safe workplaces, be they an office or a factory floor, the events of 11 years ago made me think about our own workplaces and the causes of fatalities in them. As a consultant on workplace safety matters we often are asked to help companies look at their operations to help them improve and reduce the risk of injury and death in the workplace. But where do these most serious of incidents occur and how often?
A recent HBR Daily Stat post of an Infographic developed by Co.Design sought to represent the number and occurrences of work-related fatalities in the US over the past 20 years. At the same time and over the past few months we have been writing in this blog about workplace violence and bullying. To some surprise the second leading cause of death in a workplace (or work-related fatality) is from Assaults and Violent Acts. They account for 18% of all work fatalities. If we take the total approximate annual workplace fatalities (4500) in the US, then some 800+ deaths occur every year due to some sort of violent act.
The other causes of work fatalities are 39% from transportation incidents (~1,700 fatalities, more than half occurring on highways), 16% from contact with machinery, objects, and equipment (~720 fatalities), 14% from falls (~630 fatalities), 9% from exposure to harmful substances or environments (~400 fatalities), and lastly 4% from fires and explosions (~180 fatalities).
Fatalities due to transportation and violent acts have decreased marginally over the past 20 years, but surprisingly those related to falls or to equipment and machinery have not changed much during that time.
Most of these fatalities are fortunately avoidable through a variety of educational, vocational, and management systems and programs. Companies should look at their operations and determine what their risks are for serious incidents and implement programs accordingly. Audit checklists are available for many of these incident areas, which can be useful in gauging a workplace’s liability. Various firms such as ours offer checklists as well consulting services to help you configure an affordable program that will work for your operation. Other firms such as Nimonik offer mobile device applications that can help you easily and inexpensively review your operation against a number of topical areas.
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