Chris Ross, CSP, CPLP
The Engagement Effect
Workplace safety is certainly a big issue for employers, but the majority of the injuries and fatalities to workers occur at home, in our communities and on the road. Any well-rounded company safety program also includes home safety components.
Last year there were approximately 4.4 million disabling injuries on the job for workers but over 15.4 million disabling injuries for workers off the job. The number of fatalities off job for workers and their families is far higher, according to latest data available from the National Safety Council. And complacency is probably the leading cause.
Although safety is not everyone’s favorite subject, it can really help to start kids out right. Accidental injuries are the leading cause for people age 1 to 44, with 6,000 to 8,000 child fatalities in the U.S. and Canada each year.
The best approach is to make safety fun. There are some excellent resources, files and games on the Safe Kids website at https://www.safekids.org/home-safety-educators. Another critical factor in teaching kids is to set a good example for them. Telling your children to always use a bike helmet means you must always wear a helmet. Model wearing the correct personal protective equipment, or PPE, for tasks such as mowing, weeding, working in the shop, cutting firewood, driving a snow machine or ATV, etc. If you want your kids to wear a personal flotation device, or PFD, when boating means you wear one too.
Great topics for youngsters include fire safety, street safety (looking both ways, distraction-free walking), PPE, water safety, kitchen/cooking safety, sun protection, emergency procedures and calling 911, personal safety (online, stranger danger) and poisoning. Kids are most likely to be hurt by things that are hard, sharp, hot or slippery, so teaching them about these hazards in a fun way can really pay off.
Teen safety is also important — as any parent who has been through the driving and dating years can attest! Perhaps the most valuable lessons for new drivers is to teach them about the hazards of distracted driving. While 97 percent of teen drivers think that texting while driving is dangerous, 43 percent regularly do so. Unfortunately, adults text at an even higher rate — 46 percent. There are a number of excellent resources to help parents with texting while driving, such as the “It Can Wait” site from AT&T at https://about.att.com/sites/it_can_wait, which has informative videos, resources, pledge forms and mobile applications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the leading causes of unintentional injury and death for adults include:
An increasingly common problem is distracted walking. Many people think that the majority of distracted walking accidents happen on the streets. However 52 percent of distracted walking injuries due to cell phone use occur at home. The stakes are higher on the streets, where there are far more hazards. A common misperception is that the level of distraction is much greater with handheld devices (versus hands-free), but the data shows the level of distraction between hand-held and hands-free phone use to be equal.
Slips and falls are another large category. Obviously, we live in a winter environment, so learning skills like “walking like a penguin” can be very helpful in icy conditions. Using ice cleats or grippers can reduce winter slips. Habits like testing your footing as you exit the car are well worth developing. Yet it’s not just winter that causes slip-and-fall accidents — more than 13,000 people die every year in the shower.
Unintentional drowning accounts for an average of 3,868 deaths per year. Everyone knows the importance of using a PFD while boating and following all the other boating safety rules, but it’s equally important to understand there are many more water hazards: bath tubs; swimming pools; lakes; oceans; etc.
There has been a dramatic decrease in fire fatalities recently, but there are 486,000 injuries each year due to burns, 73 percent of which happened at home. Clearly better safety practices around using PPE — oven mitts! — along with better awareness of hot things (stoves, ovens, dishes, etc.) will help, along with proper use of the barbeque. Gasoline as a source of ignition is not recommended!
The old axiom often heard at work is “We want our workers to return home the same way they arrived.” Given that the majority of people are injured or killed off the job, perhaps a better mantra would be: “We want you to come back to work the same way we left you at the end of your shift!”
The Engagement Effect, a division of Ross Performance Group LLC, offers solutions in organizational results, safety and health, leadership, talent management and culture change. Learn more at www.theengagementeffect.com or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.