The numbers of fatalities are down from the early 1990s, but homicide is still a leading factor in workplace deaths in New Hampshire and around the U.S. That’s why every employer should have a plan to prevent workplace violence, and to address it if it does occur.
Employers can take steps to prevent workplace violence, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Employers should consider installing video surveillance, alarm systems, and more lighting. Insure that the staff has cell phones and hand-held alarms. Have a drop safe so there is less cash around, particularly during the early morning and late night hours. Finally, control access to the workplace. Use guards, I.D. badges, and electronic keys.
It is important to be sure that outside sales people and other staff members who must be out of the office at certain times keep employers informed of their itinerary and file a daily work plan as a safety measure. Employees should be given an escort if they are not comfortable leaving the building at night.
Streaming videos and downloads about preventing workplace violence are available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Certain workers are at greater risk than others. Those who exchange money with the public are among them. So are employees who deliver passengers, goods, and services, who work alone in small groups on late night or early morning shifts, and those working in high crime areas.
Healthcare workers, visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators, probation officers, gas and water utility workers, phone and cable TV installers, mail carriers, taxi drivers, and retail workers all have a great degree of public contact in communities and homes. They are at high risk. Nurses, in fact, suffer more assaults on the job than police officers, usually in hospitals but sometimes when visiting homes. Procedures allowing healthcare providers to refuse treatment in an obviously dangerous situation should be set up.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were more than 200 workplace murders in the early 1990s, compared to 94 in 2006. OSHA considers the problem a major concern. More than 2 million people in all professions are the focus of workplace violence in the U.S. annually.
OSHA New Hampshire Worker Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all employers provide a “safe and healthful” workplace. That means, among other things, taking the necessary precautions to prevent or limit hazards of workplace violence. Not to take those measures can result in stringent penalties.
If violence occurs, however, employers should take certain measures quickly. Report any violent incident to police immediately. Offer first aid and other medical attention promptly. Insure that victims understand their legal right to prosecute the perpetrators. Talk about the incident with employees and support them in sharing ideas about how to avoid similar problems in the future. And offer stress debriefing or counseling to all workers.
Employers are encouraged to have a system for dealing with workplace violence that is practiced they way fire drills are practiced. Employers should take all threats seriously and employees should report any threat of violence no matter how seemingly trivial. Every incident deserves an investigation. Detailed, accurate records of threats and incidents should be kept, and corrective action taken.
OSHA has outlined a number of preventive steps that are not guarantees, but will reduce the danger to workers.
Employees should receive a training program showing them how to recognize, defuse, or avoid a possibly violent incident. All employees should tell supervisors or managers of any concern about safety and security dangers, from suspicious behavior by a coworker to a malfunctioning door.
It is important that employees report all incidents promptly and in writing. Signs of possible violent behavior include property destruction, threats, verbal abuse, minor assaults, and rage.
Other measures are important as well. Employers are urged to warn employees against traveling alone into situations and locations that are unfamiliar. It would be inappropriate for an employee to arrive in a strange city at 2 a.m., for example.
Employees should also realize that it is unsafe to wear expensive jewelry or flash expensive items in community settings. It is also best to carry only the identification required and the absolute minimum in cash.
Nationwide and in New Hampshire, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is looking into millions of injuries every year.
New Hampshire worker safety numbers are also staggering. In 2005 alone, 503,530 workers suffered what are called sprains, strains, or tears, while some 270,890 suffered painful back injuries. And 255,750 employees fell in the workplace.
Education is the key to developing a solid workplace safety plan. And a workplace safety plan can be a matter of life and death.
Here are some of the startling numbers for 2005, the last year for which statistics are available:
- 4,214,200 on-the-job accidents occurred.
- 5,702 workers died in workplace accidents.
- 1,234,700 workdays were lost as a result of accidents at work.
The numbers show that the results are often lost work time, lost pay, high-cost medical care, and lawsuits.
But the figures are just part of the picture. They represent only work in the private sector. Not included are non-profit jobs. Neither do they reflect public service positions, such as paramedical service, police work, and firefighting.
The figures also offer a surprising statistic about a category of accident that is usually seen as annoying at worst. Slips, trips, and falls are the second most frequent causes of death on the job after driving. Work related driving, statistics show, killed 1,258 employees in 2005. By comparison, slips, trips and falls resulted in 732 deaths – more than half the rate of driving-related fatalities.
According to OSHA, education is the key to slowing the rate of injuries and deaths at work. A solid safety program in the workplace offers reminders to employees about the importance of safety. It shows them how to use appropriate safety methods.
Employers interested in promoting on-the-job safety might consider an education program in the workplace. The OSHA Workplace Safety Pack is an easy-to-absorb set of guidelines to help workers avoid injuries. The package contains a Workstation Safety Tips poster, a Lifting Safely poster, a Slips, Trips and Falls poster, and Workplace Ergonomics.
Improving New Hampshire worker safety should be one side effect of a new public service campaign. Workers from industries unrelated to mining are sometimes injured in mining accidents, and this program should raise awareness of the problem affecting both workers and recreational enthusiasts.
Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, explains, “There are about 500,000 abandoned mines and another 14,000 active operations throughout the United States.” According to Stickler, “Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly. That’s why we urge workers, hikers, bikers, rock hounds and swimmers to ‘Stay Out — Stay Alive.’”
Mine accidents are more common than most people think. These accidents include more than just the highly publicized collapses. Since 1999, mine accidents have resulted in 200 fatalities. Some of the people who died in these accidents were children and outdoor enthusiasts who trespassed onto mine property. Sadly, children sometimes trespass onto the property to play, with tragic results. Workers in industries other than mining also sometimes fall into mine shafts or are injured in some other way on mine property.
In addition to mine shafts, other dangers lurk on mine property. Quarries that are filled with water can pose threats. Although they may look safe, these quarries can contain machinery or other sharp object that are hidden under the water’s surface. Other dangers around these quarries include surrounding slopes that are slippery and rock ledges that are unstable. Another danger many swimmers don’t consider is that the water in these quarries is very cold and very deep.
Recreational enthusiasts sometimes encounter problems on mine properties. If these enthusiasts are driving ATVs, they may encounter piles of loose material that can collapse and cause the vehicle to roll over.
The “Stay Out — Stay Alive” program intends to educate the public on the dangers that mines pose. The best way to prevent mine accidents involving children, outdoor enthusiasts, and workers from other industries is for those people to stay off mine property.
You may think of ATVs as those sporty, fun little recreational vehicles, but a recent New Hampshire OSHA alert shows that they can be deadly.
An New Hampshire OSHA alert issued recently addresses the increasing number of All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) accidents that occur in the workplace. Although the majority of accidents involving ATVs still occur during recreational use, the number of workplace accidents involving these vehicles is on the rise.
Even though many people may be unaware of the increase in ATV workplace accidents, the numbers are grim. In the course of 9 years, 113 people died in ATV accidents that occurred in the workplace. In addition, many more workers were injured in ATV accidents to the extent that they missed at least one day of work. Overall, during the past 9 years, there have been a total of 1625 accidents.
ATVs may appear fun, but they can be difficult to handle. When a driver takes a corner too sharply or tries to drive up an incline, the ATV may flip over. ATV accidents can also occur because the vehicle is overloaded. ATVs cannot carry a great deal of equipment or luggage, but some drivers put too much weight on them. When an ATV is overloaded, it can become more unstable on inclines.
The New Hampshire OSHA alert points out that workers who drive ATVs shouldn’t violate the weight guidelines specified by the manufacturer. Exceeding this amount can lead to an accident. In addition, workers should adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines concerning the maximum number of riders the ATV will accommodate. ATVs are not designed to carry passengers.
With this recent tragic increase in deaths from ATV accidents, the New Hampshire OSHA Alert wants employers and employees alike to understand the dangers posed by ATVs. To prevent injuries, drivers need to understand how to operate the vehicle and then follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the maximum amount of weight and riders.
The state worker safety organization requires employers to post a New Hampshire OSHA 300 form annually. The 2007 form lets employees and potential employees know about the work-related illnesses and injuries in a specific company during the 2006 calendar year. New Hampshire OSHA 300 forms are posted from February 1 to April 30 each year.
The federal government considers workplace safety important. That’s why it has instituted an organization devoted to the safety of workers. This organization is called the federal OSHA.
Three states have worker safety plans that only cover state and local government employees. These states are Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
The federal OSHA creates certain regulations that employers need to follow in order to protect their employees. The federal OSHA also provides services such as occupational and health training and education programs. The federal OSHA provides free on-site consultation to employers to help them identify and correct workplace hazards as well.
Twenty-eight of the 50 states are covered under the federal worker safety organization. Twenty-two states have opted out of the federal OSHA program. Michigan is one of the 22 states that have chosen to do this. Other states are North Carolina, California, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, and Oregon.
In order for a state to qualify for a state-run OSHA plan, it has to get federal approval. To get federal approval a state must enter a developmental plan. Under this developmental plan, the state must assure the federal OSHA that it will have all the elements necessary to effectively run its own occupational and health safety program.
Elements a state is required to have include appropriate legislation, regulations and procedures for a standard setting, and the means to enforce these regulations. The federal arm of the OSHA has all these elements and requires the states to mirror their standards.
All the states with their own worker safety organizations provide the same regulations and the same services as the federal government. Some states, like California, have added regulations. It requires states to make public standards covering hazards not addressed by the federal government.