By Steve Bills, Senior Manager of Loss Prevention for Texas Mutual Insurance Company
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) 2011. The report shows which industries and occupations experienced the most fatalities, and it also explains how they happened. Here are some tips for preventing the most common workplace fatalities.
Transportation incidents accounted for more than two out of every five fatal work injuries in 2011. In Texas, someone dies behind the wheel every two hours and 54 minutes. Follow these simple tips to get from point A to point B safely:
- Stay alert. Production quotas, particularly in industries such as oil and gas, are driving some workers to push past their bodies’ limits. If you are tired, pull over to the side of the road. Better yet, get a hotel room.
- Wear your seatbelt. About 63 percent of people killed in traffic accidents did not observe this simple rule.
- Ignore the speed limit. The speed limit on most Texas highways is at least 60 miles per hour, but on some new highways, the speed limit is 80 to 85 miles per hour. That does not mean you are required to drive these high speeds. Set your own speed limit by considering the amount of traffic, the weather conditions and the condition and capabilities of your vehicle to stop or avoid obstacles safely. Driving slower may take you longer, but you have a greater chance to arrive safely.
- Focus on the task at hand. Your ability to multitask might help you get ahead at home or earn points on the job. In a vehicle, however, it can get you involved in a serious, perhaps fatal, accident. When you put the keys in the ignition, put the cell phone down. If you have to answer a call on your cell phone, use a hands-free device. If the call will last more than a few seconds, pull over to a safe location. If you have to make a call or send a text message, pull over somewhere safe before you begin.
While employee-on-employee violence remains a serious issue, robberies account for the majority of workplace homicides.
If your employees exchange money with the public, work early-morning or late-night shifts, guard valuable items or work alone, they are at increased risk of being targeted for robbery. Follow these tips to keep your employees safe:
- Handle money safely. Keep as little cash as possible in the register and in money bags. Post signs saying, “No more than $30 in cash register at all times.” Schedule bank deposits at varying times to make it harder for criminals to plan an attack.
- Secure the workplace. Onsite security can deter would-be criminals. If you cannot afford security, install surveillance cameras where customers can see them. Make sure parking lots are well lit, and use bulletproof glass and limited-access barriers for drive-thru windows.
- Train employees. One of the best things employees can do to discourage would-be robbers is simply pay attention to their surroundings. Teach employees to greet customers, make eye contact, and take note of customers who loiter for extended periods, leave and come back soon afterward, seem nervous or avoid eye contact.
- Teach crisis management. Remaining calm is key to diffusing volatile situations. Employees should tell the robber they intend to cooperate, hand over cash, and do exactly as the robber says. If they are not sure what the robber is telling them, they should calmly ask, without making sudden movements that could startle the robber.
Slips, trips and falls
Slips, trips and falls accounted for 14 percent of workplace fatalities in 2011. If you focus on good housekeeping, provide personal protective equipment and promote safe behaviors, you can keep your employees on solid ground:
- Provide the right equipment. Slip-resistant shoes, slip-resistant floor mats and “Caution: Wet Floor” signs can help employees avoid slips, trips and falls.
- Keep an orderly shop. A small investment in your work environment can go a long way toward preventing accidents. Clear walkways of extension cords, boxes and other clutter. Repair uneven floors, leaky faucets and ice machines, and replace faulty light bulbs.
- Behave yourself. Teach employees to clean up wet spots, avoid running, climb ladders one rung at a time, ask for help with heavy loads, and slow down when approaching blind corners.
Despite your best efforts, workplace hazards will exist. Educate your employees on how to recognize them, and encourage employees to report all hazards immediately.