The last two weeks have been filled with events and initiatives supporting workplace safety and health. We acknowledge all of the organizations, owners, safety and health professionals, and workers who dedicated time and energy to renew their efforts to provide all workers safe and healthy workplaces.
- SafeBuild Alliance and the support of the construction community for their sponsorship of the kickoff to Safety Week at the Oregon Forestry Center, and metro-wide proclamations within cities for construction safety.
- The sponsorship of Oregon Safety Break by Oregon OSHA, and all of the organizations that participated in an event or initiative supportive of this day. We offer a specific shout out to OHSU’s Environmental Health and Radiation Safety on the success of their OHSU-wide safety fair to celebrate Safety Break 2017.
- The National Stand Down for Safety, including events throughout Oregon.
- Our successful May 11 symposium on Creating a Positive Work Environment for Safety and Health (recorded webinars will be available soon).
But let us not forget that to be successful in our efforts, every day counts. And every worker counts. My 23 year old daughter recently suffered a repetitive motion injury at work. Although diagnosed by an occupational medicine physician, and prescribed modified duty and therapy, her worker compensation claim was denied at 5 weeks post injury, and she was told she would need to report to her regular job the next day. Upon consultation with her supervisor, she decided to quit her job last month so she could continue to allow body parts to heal, rather than suffer an injury that could haunt her for life. This young worker acknowledged how much worse it would be if she had a family to support or other needs that would preclude her from quitting a job over an injury.
So what is the lesson here?
- Provide workplace assessments to ensure that all workers are not doing precarious or potentially injury-producing tasks (look at grips, strength requirements, lifting, posture, repetitive jobs, exposures, etc.).
- Every organization is different but assessments can effectively be performed by safety committees; health and safety leaders and officers; work teams; supervisors.
- Look at your data: not just injuries, but near misses, employee interviews, termination and resignation interviews.
- Look at what is considered industry best practice for the jobs workers are doing. Should workers be repeating the same job or could jobs be modified or diversified? Is there a device or control that could improve the job and lessen the risk of injury?
- What is the attitude that your workforce holds regarding injuries (“co-workers are faking it,” or “comp claims are always denied so there’s no reason to report.”)
For after all, let’s look at the human and economic costs of workplace losses. Prevention is not only cheaper every time, but it is the right thing to do.