Categories: Drugs, Emergency Response/Public Sector, Motor Vehicle Safety, Observances, Total Worker Health
June 3rd, 2016 9:44 am ET - John Howard, MD, and Deborah Hersman
It’s National Safety Month. Each June, the National Safety Council and its partners raise awareness on preventing the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the roads and in our homes and communities. This year’s theme is SafeForLife. Each week of June has a different focus area. In this joint blog from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Safety Council, we will highlight research and prevention activities in the four focus areas. Help us spread the word about National Safety Month. Downloadable materials highlighting each of the four safety topics are available on the NSC website. Share them widely to help others identify risks and stay safe – for a lifetime.
Week 1: Stand Ready to Respond
NIOSH: The nation depends on emergency responders to preserve the public’s safety and health when disasters strike. To successfully meet this challenge, emergency responders must be protected from the hazardous conditions that disasters and other emergencies create, whether natural or a result of human action. NIOSH offers a variety of emergency responder resourcesincluding information on personal protective equipment, safety management, and stress as well as Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance.
NSC: On any given day, anything can happen, from a slip and fall at home to a natural disaster near your workplace. By assessing potential risks and having a plan to respond, you can be prepared to handle emergencies, wherever they occur. Part of this preparation is being trained in first aid and CPR – it could be the difference between life and death. Even the fastest paramedics can take 8 to 12 minutes to get to a patient after calling 9-1-1. As part of National Safety Month, the Council is offering our NSC First Aid & CPR Online course for free between June 1st and June 12th – availability is limited.
Week 2: Be Healthy
NIOSH: Being healthy isn’t just confined to non-work hours. The NIOSH Total Worker Health®(TWH) program recognizes that work is a social determinant of health; job-related factors such as wages, hours of work, workload and stress levels, interactions with coworkers, and access to leave and healthful workplaces all can have an important impact on the well-being of workers, their families, and their communities. TWH explores opportunities to not only protect workers, but also advance their health and well-being by targeting the conditions of work. Scientific evidence now supports what many safety and health professionals, as well as workers themselves, have long suspected—that risk factors in the workplace can contribute to health problems previously considered unrelated to work.
Another aspect of being healthy is ensuring safe use of medications. Injured workers are frequently treated with powerful prescription opioid drugs, which are drivers of the current opioid epidemic we are seeing across the U.S. Read more about how NIOSH is working to address the issue in the blog The Opioid Overdose Epidemic and the Workplace.
NSC: Every day, 52 people die from prescription opioid overdoses. Prescription pain medications such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin account for more drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined. Many of those affected are working-age adults. According to a NSC survey, 80% of Indiana employers have had an issue with prescription opioids in the workplace. Even when taken as prescribed, opioid pain medications can impair workers on the job.
There are four easy things employers can do to address this growing issue – 1) review your workplace policy to address opioid misuse; 2) include the most commonly abused opioids in your drug screening; 3) train supervisors on how to recognize signs of drug use and how to address it; and 4) educate your employees on the risks of opioid use. The Council offers a variety of resources to help employers in our free Prescription Drug Employer Kit.
Week 3: Watch Out for Dangers
NIOSH: While safety is important in all aspects of our lives, ensuring safe workplaces has the potential to save thousands of lives and prevent tens of thousands of injuries and illnesses each year. In 2014, 4,821 U.S. workers died from work-related injuries[i] and approximately 3.7 million workers suffered non-fatal injuries and illnesses[ii].
One example of a campaign to reduce workplace injury and fatalities is the National Falls Prevention Campaign. NIOSH joined with partners to help prevent the leading cause of death in construction—falls. First launched in 2012, the campaign encourages everyone, from employers to workers, in the construction industry to work safely and use the right equipment to prevent falls.
As we move into summer, one hazard to watch for is CO poisoning in the marine industry. Past NIOSH investigations showed very high concentrations of CO on and around houseboats using gasoline-powered generators. Stay safe this summer by learning how to prevent CO poisoning.
NSC: Preventable injuries are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Being safe means being alert, even in familiar surroundings. Watching out for hazards can help you identify and avoid them before an injury occurs. But first we need to know what those risks might be. NSC has created a new Safety Checkup tool that helps do just that. By answering a simple 5 question survey, you will receive a custom Safety Snapshot outlining your biggest safety challenges. We all face different risks throughout our lifetime as this infographic shows. You can also attend our free June 14 webinar, Hidden Epidemics: What the data tell us about our safety.
Part of the solution is putting safety first – in our lives and in the lives of those we care about. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, but you can show your dedication by taking our SafeAtWork pledge. The Council also offers a variety of free workplace safety measurement tools and resources through the Journey to Safety Excellence website.
Week 4: Share Roads Safely
NIOSH: Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety provides research-based guidance to prevent motor vehicle crashes for truck drivers, high-risk workers, and all who drive for work. Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task: driving safely. Visit the NIOSH Distracted Driving at Work webpage for more information and resources. NIOSH and NSC are co-hosting a road safety Twitter chat on June 28 from 1-2 p.m. ET. Tweet using the #DriveSafe4Life hashtag to join the conversation, and follow @NIOSH_MVSafety and @NSCsafety for road safety tips during the chat.
NSC: With crashes the leading cause of workplace death, we need to do everything possible to avoid impairment behind the wheel. Distracted driving is a huge issue tragically taking thousands of lives each year. Communication systems in vehicles are there for convenience, not safety. Even hands-free devices pose a threat because the brain remains distracted. While there are currently no federal laws banning all electronic device use behind the wheel, employers can have a huge influence through safe driving policies. NSC offers a free Cell Phone Policy Kit for any organization looking to create or enhance its current policies.
However, not all vehicle technology is bad. There are many new life-saving features being added to cars, we just need to understand how to use them. Check out mycardoeswhat.org to learn more about these vehicle safety technologies.
Help NIOSH and NSC distribute these materials to encourage safety at work and at every stage of life.
John Howard, MD, Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Kathy Lane, Senior Director, Public Relations, National Safety Council