This week, I was working on our first podcast for 2024, and I came upon a story of a young man, a child really, he was sixteen, who died at work. It was a summer job, with plans to return to high school in the fall, where he was a four-sport athlete.
It is a tragedy.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,486 coworkers suffered a fatal work injury in 2022, up 5.7% from the previous year. This means a worker died every 96 minutes from a work-related injury in 2022. Nineteen of these individuals were under the age of 18.
I cannot imagine a parent’s loss when they send their child to a job, and they don’t come home.
The question we raise in the podcast, and I think everyone will raise, is whether it could have been prevented. Could employers have saved 5.486 people from not coming home at the end of the day?
I want to say yes. I want to say that it is always the employers’ fault.
However, it is not that simple because we are dealing with humans and humans, no matter how hard we try, we are imperfect. We make the wrong decision, and it can cost us our life.
When we look at the data, the number one cause of death is transportation incidents; this includes 325 pedestrian vehicular incidents but also includes aircraft, railways, and other motorized land vehicles. The second is falls, slips, or trips at 865 incidents. The next is contact with an object or equipment.
While working in the theater, I had a friend lose part of their thumb on a table saw because it didn’t have a safety guard. It happened quickly, and before I knew it, I was rushing him to the hospitality to see if we could save his thumb. The answer was no.
When I was researching for the podcast, I came upon four things all employers can do to reduce accidents and fatal injuries.
- Build a Culture of Safety: Consistently make safety the number one driving force for any decision in the workplace. Employees can stop production if they feel unsafe or feel that what is happening may cause harm to another coworker.
- Manager and Employee Safety Training: The assumption that coworkers know what is safe gets a lot of organizations into trouble. The belief that someone will teach them safety protocol is also wrong. Building a consistent safety program will reduce accidents and fatalities.
- Hiring Right: One of the hiring assessments I use, the Judgment Index, measures our ability to make good decisions. Typically, when we explore what went wrong in a situation, we can pinpoint it to someone not using good judgment.
- Increase Safety Signage around The Workplace. Reminding workers what is safe and stopping them from doing something stupid.
Bonus: Listen to OSHA guidance and regulations. I know OSHA can be a pain in the ass, but their goal, like ours, is to create a safe work environment for our employees.
Let’s make the year 2024 – the year of safety.