Workplace injuries and illnesses cost businesses in the United States billions of dollars every year and devastate the lives of the victims and their families. To address this problem, the U.S. Government created the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970. A year later, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created.
Workplace Injuries and Fatalities
Although OSHA has helped decrease the number of occupational injuries and illnesses, workplace injuries are still a serious problem. The DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the following recent workplace accident statistics:
- Nearly 5,200 U.S. workers were killed on the job in 2016. Forty percent of these fatalities were transportation related; almost 17 percent of workplace fatalities were attributed to injuries caused by animals or a person; fatal injuries from falls or slips were responsible for another 16.4 percent. Other major causes of fatal occupational injuries include contact with objects or equipment, exposure to harmful substances, and fires or explosions.
- More than 4.1 million workers sustain serious work-related injuries and illnesses every year. Minor injuries sustained by U.S. workers each year are too numerous to track.
- It is estimated that lost productivity from injuries and illnesses costs U.S. employers upwards of $60 billion each year. OSHA reports that the total annual cost of occupational injuries and illnesses is a staggering $170 billion.
OSHA’s Policy Has Improved Workplace Safety
There are laws in many states that encourage companies to implement an injury and illness prevention program and in 15 states it is mandatory for employers to have a program in place. Consequently, thousands of companies across the United States have developed and implemented occupational injury and illness prevention programs. The Texas Workforce Commission does not require such a program but the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) offers health and safety information to employers in an effort to reduce and/or eliminate occupational injuries and hazardous exposures.
There have been numerous studies to examine and assess the effectiveness of injury and illness prevention programs. One study done in manufacturing facilities in 13 states where the program is mandatory found the program was quite effective in reducing the rates of injuries and illnesses. OSHA’s studies have shown that occupational injuries have gone down by 40 percent and workplace fatalities have fallen by 60 percent since the act was enforced.
Implementing OSHA’s Injury and Illness Policy in Your Company
An injury and illness prevention policy should be tailored to reduce the number of occupational injuries and illnesses specific to your company. Your program should include the following:
- Management leadership: Management should establish overall goals for safety and health within the organization, then define the actions needed to meet these goals. Corporate leadership should designate one or more individuals to provide oversight for the program and provide sufficient resources for implementation.
- Worker participation: Consult with employees during development and implement of the program. Workers at various levels may have a role in workplace inspections and incident investigations. Everyone should be encouraged to report hazards, safety concerns, near misses, injuries, and illnesses.
- Hazard identification and assessment: Identify, assess, and document workplace hazards using a variety of methods: workplace inspection, employee interviews, illness assessments and injury investigations.
- Education and training: Educate and train workers using a language they can understand. Review the procedures for reporting workplace injuries, illnesses, and other health and safety concerns. Include how to recognize, control, and eliminate existing and potential hazards. Education and training should be conducted periodically.
- Program evaluation and improvement: Periodically review the program to determine its success. Make any needed changes and keep working to improve the program and its results.
Injury and illness prevention programs should be the result of an involved process that requires careful planning and execution. For assistance determining the need for such a program for your organization, contact the employment lawyers at Simon Paschal, PLLC.