The Current State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

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Every day, countless workers risk their lives in the performance of their duties. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed not just by the government, but by the employers themselves. Many are now hiring workplace safety professionals to help develop accident-prevention strategies.

To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety degree program.

Infographic on the Current State of Workplace Safety in the U.S.

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Emerging Trends Causing Increase in Workplace Safety Concerns

Several factors increase the risk of danger in workplaces all across the country. One of them is mental illness, which affects a significant portion of adults. In fact, it is estimated that 9.5% suffer from some form of depression. Employers lose roughly $100 billion annually due to untreated cases among their workers. A few companies have begun to reach out to their employees. DuPont, for example, has its ICU program, which helps those who are emotionally distressed. The Americans with Disabilities Act calls for reduced working hours, permission to work from home, and changes in duties for faster recovery.

Drug abuse is another concern that cannot be taken lightly. Studies have been made to measure the level of illicit drug use among full-time employed adults in the US. The findings were broken down into each industry. Accommodations and food services came out on top with 19.1%. Next were the entertainment industry with 13.7% and management with 12.7%. According to the Department of Justice, about half of all workplace accidents were caused by drug abuse.

Alcohol is often abused as well. Drinking is to blame for 11% of all recorded workplace fatalities. Workers suffering from alcoholism have almost thrice the tendency to be absent due to injuries compared to the average person. Alcohol consumption is quite prevalent among adult workers but it is particularly widespread in the mining and construction sector with usage being as high as 17.5% and 16.5%, respectively. Chemical presence also needs to be tackled head on. Exposure to toxic substances is the 8th leading cause of death in the country. A staggering 32 million workers regularly get exposed to hazardous chemicals. This often results in death and chronic illness.

History of Industry-specific Accidents

There is a downward trend in worker deaths per day from 38 in 1970 to 13 in 2014. A total of 4,821 workers died on the job in 2014 with crippling effects on their families. These figures indicate that policies and conditions have been improving in the past decades but there is still much to be done. The goal is to eliminate fatalities completely and create an environment where people can work without any fear.

After tallying the nonfatal injuries and illness in 2015, it was found that the occupations carrying the greatest risks were in health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and retail trade. Construction, known for its many dangers, placed fifth in the list.

Construction’s Fatal Four

The frequency of fatal accidents in the construction industry prompted stricter regulations. These focused on four of the main causes of fatality including falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and being caught between objects. Falls account for 39.9% of the cases as workers often have to scale great height to complete their tasks. Higher standards are now in place to minimize these incidents but more effort is necessary to eliminate the dangers.

Workplace Safety Standards

According to law, employers are responsible for keeping a site safe. They are legally required to implement certain policies to this effect. For instance, they have to warn everyone of potential hazards through the use of labels, signs, and color codes. They should also schedule regular maintenance to keep tools and equipment safe for daily use. Every employee must receive adequate training to prevent mistakes and accidents. Operating procedures must be updated regularly to improve their effectiveness. They must also keep a record of all work-related injuries and illnesses.

Challenges for Workplace Safety

The traditional approach has been focused on detection rather than prevention. The premise was that workers were primarily responsible for the accidents due to their unsafe actions. This is being challenged because of its shortcomings. Critics say that the system fails at motivating workers to behave in the proper ways. It is also reactive rather than proactive, hence the problem is fixed only after an accident has occurred and people have been placed in danger. They also point out that the inspections don’t always yield to a clear picture of all the issues at play.

The alternative approach calls for greater responsibility and authority among employees, changing the perspective on processes, and adapting to variations within a process. It was found that increased awareness of workplace safety processes was able to raise respect for workplace safety professionals. A lot of companies are seeing the benefits of having experts on this issue within their ranks.

Workplace Safety Job Profiles

There are a number of positions that need to be filled up within an organization. The Safety Director, for example, is in-charge of formulating a safety strategy that is tailored to the needs to the company. Of course, this should be crafted with the department’s budget in mind. The director has to manage relationships with government regulators as well as internal executives for compliance. The median salary is $72,127. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree and relevant professional certifications.

Companies should also hire safety managers to work under the director. These people will be responsible for the development of safety standards to keep all personnel away from dangers. They also have to monitor the operations closely and look out for potentially hazardous situations. The median salary is $65,222. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree, preferably in environmental studies or engineering fields, with a distinct emphasis on logistics.

Safety coordinators can beef up this department by delving deep in the field and supervising the safety of employees. They are the ones who keep records of accidents and work-related illnesses. Due to their proximity, they are well equipped with the details needed to identify accident-prevention strategies. The median salary is $50,856. The requirements for this job include a bachelor’s degree and some experience in conducting safety training. Candidates who are seeking advantages when applying for these jobs can obtain various certifications on workplace safety.