A recent spate of workplace fatalities is prompting states such as Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, and Nebraska to be on alert, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking notice. Together with state departments, OSHA is seeking to stem the increase in fatalities that reports show are associated with falls, struck-by (objects and vehicles), machine hazards, grain bin engulfment, and burns. State agencies are teaming up with the federal entity to encourage greater workplace safety vigilance, educate on safety programs, and aim to curb the rise in worker deaths.
Fatalities Under Investigation
In June, four worker deaths in eight days prompted officials in Baltimore to take a deeper look. The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office is investigating the unusual occurrence of having so many workplace deaths reported in such a short time. In 2016, 92 people died of injuries while working in Maryland, a 33 percent increase from 2015’s data, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics. In 2016, 5,190 worker deaths were reported in the United States as a whole, up from 4,836 in 2015.
Aiming to raise awareness and understanding of the value of workplace safety nationwide, OSHA began its Safe + Sound Campaign in 2017. Almost a year later, the agency is still urging the development and implementation of safety and health programs throughout the nation that include management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. More than 198 organizations in the U.S. are part of the campaign. This year, Safe + Sound week is Aug. 13-19, and the goal is to increase worker participation in creating, maintaining, or boosting solid safety and health programs by managing workplace hazards.
"OSHA has investigated 34 fatalities in these three states since Oct. 1, 2017," said OSHA Regional Administrator Kim Stille. "Working together with employers, unions, and employees, we can reduce these incidents. By implementing and sustaining workplace safety and health programs we can help employees avoid preventable injuries and fatalities. The agency has additional resources available to help employers of all sizes identify workplace hazards and eliminate them."
Some of the ways OSHA is engaging with states is by increasing involvement in prevention. In Omaha, Nebraska, and other cities across the U.S., OSHA is teaming up with construction companies that are embarking on several large projects to address common construction hazards, such as electrocution, and educate workers on best practices. Through this Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA is also available to help encourage worker participation in safety and health programs. In this program, associations, employers, employees and others make a team effort to collaborate on specific goals, strategies, and performance measures for safety.
As a reminder to small and medium-sized companies, OSHA is also promoting its free compliance assistance program in each state. The program is confidential and provides educational guidance on mitigation of industry hazards. Another program OSHA is promoting as part of increasing safety and health vigilance is the Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). Companies who have successfully used SHARP, receive recognition as having an exemplary safety and health program.
One of the most effective ways workplaces can reduce injuries is to implement a safety and health program. Creating a simple safety and health program can increase worker performance and productivity, while also being cost effective. Get started by increasing worker training that includes job hazard awareness and continuous improvement through visual communication.