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Recently, OSHA released its annual national census of fatal occupational injuries for 2011. The results are appalling: Nearly 4,700 people died in work-related accidents last year, roughly one death every two hours. Construction had the second-highest number of fatal injuries of any industry profiled by OSHA-721. Among the top causes of these fatal accidents were:
- Slips, trips and falls
- Struck by objects and equipment
- Struck by falling objects and equipment
- Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects
- Exposure to electricity
Surprisingly, the largest group of fatalities by age group wasn’t young people, but workers 45-54 years old. This would seem to suggest that complacency and overconfidence may be significant safety issues. Also, some accidents may have been due to age-related factors; coordination, peripheral vision, muscle strength and other bodily functions sometimes begin to decline during middle age.
On the plus side, fatal work injuries in construction declined 7 percent in 2011 and have steadily declined every year since 2006. But with nearly two people per day still perishing due to occupational injuries in construction, more must be done to continue this trend.
So how can we make our jobsites even safer?
Here are several ideas:
Commit to training for new and experienced operators. The need for training of new operators is obvious, especially considering that a growing percentage of young people have never operated any type of equipment before. What’s less obvious is the need for remedial training for experienced operators, who may have developed some bad habits over time. What’s your plan to assess their skill level, develop learning plans to correct inefficient or unsafe behaviors and train them on advanced techniques for the equipment they operate?
Commit to more structured equipment inspections. At many jobsites, operators simply hop aboard their machines and begin working, oblivious to mechanical problems that could potentially put their lives and those of nearby laborers in jeopardy. Performing a thorough pre-use walk-around inspection only takes five to 10 minutes and could help save a life. It also has a practical benefit-it enables you to reduce unplanned downtime and maintenance costs by identifying machine problems when they are minor.
Keep jobsites uncluttered and well-organized. Cluttered, messy jobsites, where materials and tools are laying everywhere, are accidents waiting to happen. Slips, trips and falls are already one of the top categories for serious jobsite injuries and fatalities. Why contribute to these alarming statistics? Put tools back where they belong, and gather materials and waste into piles, out of the way of laborers and equipment.
The biggest customers of safety training programs are often those firms that have experienced a serious injury or fatality. It doesn’t have to be that way. Why not take pre-emptive steps to strengthen your firm’s safety training program today? You may save a life!