BLS Annual Report on Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Released

BLS Annual Report on Workplace Injuries and Illnesses ReleasedEvery year the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases a report summarizing data from the previous year’s reported workplace illnesses and injuries. The latest edition, released in December 2014, revealed that private employers reported slightly more than 3 million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries in 2013. This is an incidence rate of 3.3 illnesses or injuries per 100 equivalent full-time workers, a number that illustrates a continuation of the decline in incidents seen over the last 11 years.

General Data

More than 50 percent of the more 3 million cases private employers reported in 2013 were serious enough to require days away from work, job transfer or restriction. These cases—also known as DART cases for days away/restricted or job transfer—occurred at a rate of 1.7 per 100 full-time workers. This was a statistically significant decrease from 2012 when the DART rate was 1.8, and is the first decline since 2009.

There were 1.4 million other recordable nonfatal injury and illness incidents that did not require days away from work, job transfer or restriction. These cases occurred at a rate of 1.6 per 100 full-time workers, unchanged from 2012’s 1.6 rate.

The rate of total reported cases of illness and injury was highest among private businesses employing between 50 and 249 workers. The BLS found the lowest incidence rate among companies employing fewer than 11 workers. The manufacturing, retail trade and utilities industries all experienced a significant decline in incident rate in 2013. However, the incident rate was statistically unchanged among all other private industries.

Injury Data

Almost 2.9 million of the more than 3 million reported nonfatal workplace incidents in 2013 were injuries. More than 75 percent of these injuries occurred in service-providing industries including wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation, warehousing, information, finance, insurance, real estate, education, leisure and hospitality. These industries employ more than 82 percent of the private industry workforce.

Goods-producing industries—such as natural resources/mining, construction and manufacturing—accounted for nearly 25 percent of the reported injuries. These industries employ almost 18 percent of the private industry workforce.

Illness Data

Around 153,000 of the more than 3 million reported nonfatal workplace incidents in 2013 were illnesses. The rate of workplace illness was 16.6 cases per 10,000 full-time workers in 2013, a number that was not statistically different from 2012’s 17.3 illness incident rate. Goods-producing industries accounted for 34.4 percent of the reported workplace illness incidents. Service-providing industries accounted for 65.6 percent.

While no one can prevent every potential workplace illness or injury, a comprehensive workplace safety program can help you decrease your own company’s incident rate. Whether you would like assistance establishing such a program or need some insight into improving the one you have, we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your workplace safety needs.

 

 

OSHA Expanded Fatality/Serious Injury Reporting Rule

OSHA Expanded Fatality/Serious Injury Reporting Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently expanded requirements for reporting fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace. The revised rule—that went into effect on January 1—also includes updates to the list of industries partially exempt from workplace illness and injury record-keeping requirements.

When OSHA announced the new rule in 2014, Thomas E. Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, stated, “Workplace injuries and fatalities are absolutely preventable, and these new requirements will help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them.”

Reporting of Fatalities and Serious Injuries

Revisions to previous rules now require employers to notify OSHA of any work-related fatality within eight hours. They have 24 hours to report work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or accidents involving the loss of an eye. Previously, reporting requirements were limited to fatalities and hospitalizations of three or more employees. The report of single hospitalizations, amputations or eye-loss injuries was not required.

To ease employers’ administrative burden, OSHA has established three methods for reporting incidents. If one of your employees is killed, hospitalized or suffers an accident causing amputation or eye loss, you can report the event by telephone during normal business hours to your local OSHA office (find the location and number at www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html). You can also call the 24-hour OSHA hotline (at 1-800-321-OSHA) or submit your report online at www.osha.gov/report_online.

Work-Related Illness and Injury Record-keeping

Depending on the size of your company, or your industry, you may be exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements for work-related illnesses and injuries. Employers with 10 or fewer employees are always exempt from records maintenance rules. Employers on the new list of partially exempt industries are also not required to maintain workplace illness and injury records.

While the Standard Industrial Classification system was the basis for the old list of exemptions, OSHA created the new list using the North American Industry Classification System and updated injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Partially exempt industries include gasoline stations, florists, most retail stores, most publishers and broadcasters, banks, insurance carriers, real estate, legal services, business support services, schools, restaurants and other low-risk industries as determined by OHSA. You can find a complete list at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/ppt1/RK1exempttable.html.

All employers, including those partially exempt due to company size or industry classification, must still report any workplace incident that results in a fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye—even if they’re not required to maintain records of illnesses and injuries.

If you’d like more information on the new OSHA reporting and record-keeping rule, you can find additional details at www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014. For further insight into how these changes may impact your business, or assistance with updating your workplace safety program, give me a call.

 

 

The National Safety Council’s “Journey to Safety Excellence” Campaign

The National Safety Council’s “Journey to Safety Excellence” Campaign

Every journey begins with a single step, and the National Safety Council is encouraging U.S. businesses to take that step today. They designed the Journey to Safety Excellence campaign, the largest advocacy effort of its kind, to act as a roadmap to help employers of every size and in every industry keep their workers free from harm. Unfortunately, our nation needs it; according to the council, nearly 11 workers die on the job every day and accidents injure 5 million annually. Another 400,000 contract illnesses in the workplace each year—and 50,000 die as a result.

We can all agree that these are unacceptable numbers in a country that considers workers one of its most important assets. Not only do preventable accidents and illnesses in the workplace often provoke the wrath of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but safe businesses generally enjoy greater financial success, better workers and lower employee turnover in exchange for their diligence. Working towards “safety excellence” can boost employee morale, increase productivity and lower operating costs.

“The National Safety Council has been an important partner throughout OSHA’s history,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on the campaign’s website. “Their newest initiative, the Journey to Safety Excellence, is essential in helping a company or organization become successful in their quest for and commitment to workplace safety.”

Employers can access Journey to Safety Excellence documents and tools online at the National Safety Council website. There you will find a number of valuable resources including:

Journey Tools – Designed to help you benchmark your safety performance against that of your competitors, these tools will help you measure baselines and identify areas for improvement. You’ll also find tools to help you set realistic goals and monitor your company’s progress towards safety excellence.

Journey Guides – Review webinars, best practices, training resources and more as you explore workplace safety and health topics. From safety basics to risk reduction, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start your own journey to safety excellence.

Safety Talk – A discussion board dedicated to workplace safety, you’ll find dozens of helpful topic threads and can even start your own. Build a profile and connect with safety advisors and other business owners to share best practices and safety solutions.

Journey News – Get the latest information on workplace safety, from trends and events to new tools and resources.

To learn more about the Journey to Safety Excellence, download the free introductory guide today. And don’t hesitate to contact your risk management or workplace safety advisor for assistance creating or optimizing your company’s safety program.

 

 

Prepare Your Workforce for Cold and Flu Season

Prepare Your Workforce for Cold and Flu Season

With every news program, newspaper and news website full of stories about Ebola, it’s easy to forget that flu season is nearly upon us. Unfortunately, this illness, which is contracted when influenza viruses infect the nose, throat and lungs, can cause severe symptoms and even life-threatening complications in many people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population catches the flu each year.

Annually, the flu leads to more than 200,000 hospitalizations, 111 million lost workdays, and $7 billion in revenue losses due to sick days and lost productivity. Keep your workforce safe—and your company’s productivity up—throughout flu season with these tips to help prevent cold and flu.

Educate Your Employees

It may seem like common sense, but not all workers recognize flu symptoms or understand how the virus spreads. You may want to send a company-wide email reminding them to monitor their health if they begin to exhibit any of the following:

  • Fever and/or chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Sinus congestion or runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Experts advise that not everyone with the flu will have a fever, so this symptom is not the best indication that one has the illness. Additionally, someone with the flu may be able to pass the illness on beginning one day before their symptoms develop to seven days after they become sick. The virus generally spreads through the airborne droplets released when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes. These droplets may land on the mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) of nearby people, thereby transferring the virus.

Encourage Flu Vaccinations

According to the CDC, the very best way to prevent catching the flu is to get a flu vaccine every flu season. Encourage your staff to do so—perhaps by allowing them to visit a nearby vaccination clinic (often held at drug and grocery store pharmacies) on the clock, or by arranging for a medical professional to visit your office and administer vaccines.

The CDC recommends seasonal flu vaccines for everyone six months of age and older. Vaccination is particularly important for individuals who are at high risk for influenza-related complications. This includes adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, individuals with asthma or heart disease, and the morbidly obese.

Keep Your Office Clean

Droplets containing the flu virus can also land on nearby surfaces. Should someone touch those surfaces and transfer the droplets to their eyes, nose and mouth by way of their hands, they can contract the virus. Encourage your staff to wash their hands frequently as well as keep their workspace clean. Daily disinfecting of phones, computer keyboards, desk surfaces, break room and bathroom sink faucet handles, microwave door handles and refrigerator door handles is advised.

Create a Contingency Plan

Most people who contract seasonal flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks. However, because the illness passes quite easily from person to person, the CDC recommends that individuals who have the flu stay home from work during the period in which they are contagious. This means you may find yourself without key employees at some point during the winter flu season (running from October to May, peaking between December and February). A contingency plan—including cross training multiple workers in vital functions—can help you maintain normal business operations.

Do You Conduct Regular Workplace Fire Drills?

Do You Conduct Regular Workplace Fire Drills?

Do you remember your elementary school years? How about the suspense you felt every time your school had a fire drill—as you lined up single file and marched slowly from the building to your group’s designated meeting spot. During good weather, a fire drill could be fun. During bad weather, they were a little less pleasant. But they served a purpose either way: to teach you to respond quickly, calmly and safely in the event of a building fire. Fire drills can serve the same purpose for your workforce today.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not require employers to conduct fire drills in the workplace, it strongly recommends them. As they state in one document, “It is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared.” Your business insurance carrier may have stronger feelings about drills. Some require clients to hold period drills to ensure the safe evacuations of employees. Drills may also be necessary to satisfy local fire codes.

Why Should I Conduct Fire Drills?

When you give your employees the opportunity to practice emergency procedures in a simulated—but safe—environment, you reduce their risk of harm in an actual life-threatening situation. Written evacuation procedures included in your workplace safety plan are not enough. Unless you physically run through them, you cannot evaluate their effectiveness and make changes to improve them. Also, there’s the previously mentioned issue of insurance and local fire codes. If you’re on the fence about conducting workplace fire drills, take a moment to call your insurance agent and the fire marshal to confirm the legal necessity.

How Often Should We Drill?

Your insurance policy or local fire codes may dictate the frequency of your fire drills. However, if they do not, consider the number of fire hazards in your workplace. If your office houses flammable materials or is located within a building that is difficult to exit (such as a high rise), you may want to conduct quarterly drills. If there are few fire hazards at your location, twice-yearly drills may be adequate.

Is a Surprise or Planned Drill Better?

While scheduled/planned fire drills minimize workflow disruption, surprise/unannounced drills are better for evaluating the emergency readiness of your workforce. If you’re just instituting evacuation procedures, or have recently made some changes, a planned drill will give you the chance to take your staff through the evacuation step by step. However, if you’re practicing established procedures, a surprise drill will give you the best indication of how your people will react in a real fire emergency.

Take the time to evaluate the results of every fire drill immediately after the event. Make note of issues such as employees who did not hear/respond to the alarm, equipment that wasn’t properly shut down, assigned evacuation routes that were not followed, unexpected corridor or stairwell obstructions, and employees requiring assistance. Look for ways to adjust your workplace procedures to account for or eliminate these issues.

If you’d like assistance incorporating regular workplace fire drills into your workplace safety plan, or determining if your insurance carrier or local fire codes require them, contact your workplace safety advisor.

Essential Steps for Workplace Accident Investigations

Essential Steps for Workplace Accident Investigations

Workplace accidents are not unusual. They occur every day, and some are serious enough to take the lives of the workers involved. While the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and other laws require employers to take every step possible to prevent their staff from workplace injuries and illnesses, it’s equally important that you have procedures in place for investigating any accidents that occur.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not set specific standards for workplace accident investigation, experts recommend employers take the following steps regardless of the severity of the incident and even in the case of near-miss incidents which did not cause injury or illness.

1. Determine what happened. You’ll need to examine the accident scene (including any equipment used), speak to the injured employee (if possible) and collect the accounts of other workers who witnessed the incident. Facts you’ll need to gather include the names of the injured parties, descriptions of the injuries or damage that occurred, and a timeline of the incident.

Questions to Ask:

  • Where did the incident occur?
  • What was the employee doing at the time of the accident?
  • Was the employee performing a new job or process?
  • Were there any other workers in the area?
  • What were the witnesses doing at the time of the incident?
  • What is the physical condition of the area?
  • What injuries did affected parties sustain?
  • What damage did the accident cause?

 

2. Determine why it happened. Workplace accidents rarely happen without a reason. While common causes include shortcuts, overconfidence, neglecting safety procedures and lack of preparation, every situation is different. Taking a look at the details should help you determine the catalyst in your workplace incident.

Questions to Ask:

  • Was the area wet or muddy, too hot or too cold?
  • Was there debris within or near the accident site?
  • Was the employee qualified to perform the task?
  • Had the employee received all necessary training to perform the operation?
  • Was the employee using proper tools and equipment?
  • Were these tools and equipment in good condition?
  • Did the employee follow all company safety procedures?
  • Was the employee receiving proper supervision?

 

3. Determine how to prevent future accidents. While no business owner wants to deal with a workplace accident, there is a silver lining to every incident: the opportunity to learn how to prevent a reoccurrence.

Questions to Ask:

  • What immediate action could have prevented or minimized the incident?
  • What long-term action can you take to prevent or minimize such incidents?
  • Do you need to adjust your workplace safety procedures?
  • Do you need to review workplace safety procedures with your staff?

If you have ten or more employees and OSHA does not classify your establishment as a partially exempt industry, you must record workplace injuries and illnesses using the appropriate OSHA forms. You can learn more about record-keeping and reporting requirements on the OSHA website. If you would like further information on accident investigation and workplace safety, please contact your insurance professional or workplace safety advisor.

 
 

 

 

Following OSHA Reporting Rules: Temporary Worker Injury?

Following OSHA Reporting Rules: Temporary Worker Injury?

Temporary workers are common in today’s businesses. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, temporary help employment was up 8 percent year over year in August. Whether you’re running a call center, a retail establishment, a medical center, a manufacturing plant or a construction site, it’s quite possible you’ve supplemented your staff in the past with temporary workers hired through a staffing agency or firm. However, have you been following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules for recording temporary worker injuries and illnesses?

In a temp worker and staffing agency situation, many employers are confused about how to determine who is responsible for satisfying particular OSHA requirements. While both—the staffing agency and the host employer—are responsible for complying with laws related to workplace safety, any injuries and illnesses only need to be recorded on one party’s log. Supervision is generally the determining factor.

The employer who supervises the temporary workers on a day-to-day basis is responsible for recording any work-related illnesses or injuries they incur. According to 29 CFR 1904.31(a), day-to-day supervision means the employer “supervises the details, means, methods and processes by which the work is to be accomplished” in addition to “specifying the output, product or result to be accomplished by the person’s work.” This is the case at most businesses that employ temporary workers—so most host employers are the party responsible for maintaining illness and injury records.

In some cases, a staffing agency may have a representative present at the host employer’s workplace. However, the presence of this agent does not usually transfer the record-keeping responsibilities away from the host employer. As long as the host employer continues to provide day-to-day supervision of the temporary worker, he is responsible for recording any work-related injuries and illnesses.

It’s important that the staffing agency and host employer coordinate their methods for the reporting of work-related illnesses and injuries and communicate those instructions to the temporary workers. Should a temporary worker be involved in a workplace accident, the host employer should inform the staffing agency. If the staffing agency learns of an illness or injury, they should confirm that the host employer is aware of it. Any contract you form with a staffing agency should contain language clearly establishing these notification procedures.

To learn more about your responsibilities when employing temporary workers through a staffing agency, visit the OSHA website. For additional assistance understanding reporting rules or workplace safety regulations, contact your workplace safety advisor.

Designing Your Workplace First Aid Program

Workplace First Aid Program

If you’re running a business, you already know that you’re legally obligated to provide your employees with a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that may cause serious physical harm or death. However, do your employees know what to do when an accident—preventable or otherwise—or unexpected health emergency strikes on the job? A comprehensive workplace first aid program should be part of every safety management system in addition to hazard prevention and control.

Private industry employers reported nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries in 2012. There were also 4,628 occupational fatalities. The causes of these incidents were many. In addition to preventable slips, trips, falls and exposure to dangerous chemicals, workers may suffer from unexpected health emergencies such as sudden cardiac arrest.

The outcome of any occupational illness, injury or health emergency depends on the availability of first aid care and medical treatment as well as the severity of the incident. Prompt and properly administered first aid can make the difference between temporary and permanent disability or even life and death. Consider these suggestions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when designing your workplace first aid program.

1. Assess the risks. Take a look at the injuries and illnesses that have occurred within your workplace in the past. You may also want to review national data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at www.bls.gov/iif. What incidents are most common within your industry? When designing your workplace first aid program, you’ll want to be sure to address these types of incidents thoroughly.

2. Determine EMS response times. Whether your business takes place in a single location or you have multiple jobsites, you should obtain estimates of emergency medical service response times for all hours of the day and night during which your employees are working. You can consult with the local fire and rescue service, hospitals and ambulance companies to gather this data.

3. Understand the law. The OSHA First Aid Standard (29 CFR 1910.151) requires a business have trained first-aid providers on site if there is no “infirmary, clinic or hospital in near proximity to the workplace, which is used for treatment of all injured employees.” Additionally, OSHA standards require that training to include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

4. Obtain supplies. The types and amounts of first-aid supplies on site should reflect the kinds of injuries and illnesses that are likely to occur. Your workplace risk assessment is an invaluable tool for this process. Store all supplies in an area that is readily available in the event of emergency.

5. Train your on-site first aid providers. The American Red Cross, the National Safety Council and other private educational organizations offer general first aid courses, though you may want to invest in training customized to the needs of your worksite. All training should address both potential life-threatening and non-life-threatening incidents. OSHA advises instructor-led retraining every six to 12 months.

6. Put policies and procedures in writing. You should document your workplace first aid program and communicate it to all of your employees, including those who do not read or speak English. If your workforce contains those for whom English is their second language, you may want to train both English and non-English speaking employees to become on-site first-aid providers.

7. Periodically review your program. At least once a year, review your first aid program and determine if the changing needs of your workplace have rendered it ineffective. Adjust your first aid supplies, training and policies accordingly.

Whether you’re designing your first workplace first aid program or adjusting a program you already have in place, your workers compensation insurance agent can help. Contact your agent today to discuss how first aid integrates into your complete safety management system.

 

 

 

The Real Costs of Substance Abuse and Misuse on the Job

The Real Costs of Substance Abuse and Misuse on the Job

You obviously don’t want your employees consuming alcohol or using mind-altering substances while they’re on the clock. However, have you ever considered what after hours binge drinking, alcoholism or abuse of prescription drugs might be doing to your company’s bottom line? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates the total costs of drug abuse and addiction are $524 billion a year. Illegal drug use alone accounts for $181 billion in healthcare, productivity loss, crime, incarceration and drug enforcement.

My Employees Would Never Use Drugs!

If you don’t think any of your employees are drug misusers or abusers, you could be wrong. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 8.5 percent of Americans have alcohol-use disorders. Millions more abuse illegal or prescription drugs. They may work within any type of business and within any industry. They may hold positions at any level within an organization—from entry level to c-suite executives. And because of the side effects of substance abuse—from reduced coordination and slow reflexes to overconfidence and reckless behavior—they are more likely to make devastating mistakes or cause accidents in the workplace.

Yikes! What Are the Warning Signs?

Employees who abuse or misuse alcohol and other drugs often exhibit performance or behavioral problems. While the presence of one or more of these issues does not necessarily mean a particular worker is an abuser, they may warrant closer observation. Extreme stress due to life events such as divorce, death or health problems may also cause these symptoms.

  • Inconsistent quality of work
  • An increase in mistakes
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Faltering productivity
  • Chronic absenteeism or tardiness
  • Extended lunch hours
  • Early departures
  • Unexplained disappearances
  • Errors in judgment
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Avoidance of colleagues
  • Blame throwing
  • Frequent complaints
  • Lack of personal hygiene or deterioration in appearance

All of these issues may cause your business to lose money through the deterioration of workplace morale (which can increase turnover), reduction in employee productivity, and increase in accident risks. When workplace injuries increase, workers compensation insurance rates follow.

So What Can I Do?

It’s essential that you create a company substance abuse policy, document it in writing, and communicate it to your employees. The best policies clearly define what constitutes substance abuse and misuse in your workplace, outline the disciplinary actions that you will take if an issue is identified, and tie into your organization’s drug and alcohol testing program.

Additionally, you should train managers and supervisors to recognize the symptoms of possible drug and alcohol abuse and misuse and communicate with the employees in question in a caring, confidential and effective fashion. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that includes education on substance abuse and misuse as well as short-term counseling for employees with personal problems that are impacting their work performance can also be a valuable investment.

If you’re concerned about substance abuse and misuse within your workplace, contact your insurance professional for assistance and insight into appropriate policies, protective and preventative measures.