Safety Did Not Take a Pandemic Holiday
As a workplace safety keynote speaker, it is sad to report that during the pandemic period, safety did not take a holiday. In fact, certain measures worsened. While those outside of the safety “industry” predicted a lowering of workplace accidents, in fact, they increased.
From the Ride to the Office
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (June 3, 2021), “Estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes—the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.”
This grim statistic occurred even though many Americans were locked down. Indeed, there was a 13% decrease in miles driven. However, many of these fatalities occurred to and from worksites, manufacturing, transportation and other essential jobs. The top reasons included drunk-driving, speeding and failure to wear seat belts.
Weren’t workers told about road safety? Aren’t there posters in the workplace and numerous training videos?
Labor Injury Statistics Not So Great
Though many workplace offices were “shut-down” in 2020, industries from construction to healthcare were clearly open for business.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics in topline data reported (November 3, 2021):
- Private industry employers reported 2.7 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020.
- Total reported workplace illness cases more than quadrupled to 544,600 cases, up from 127,200 cases in 2019. This was partially due to COVID but also other respiratory illnesses where workers didn’t bother to take precautions.
- While healthcare worker such as nurses, nursing assistants, therapists, etc. had the highest percentage of illnesses as might be expected, other professions had their share of injuries. For example, tractor trailer drivers reported 43,500 injuries, and most notable was that “laborers and freight, stock and material movers, hand were essentially unchanged in 2020 over 2019.
Finally, according to Liberty Mutual Insurance statistics, the top 5 workplace injuries in 2020 were:
- Lifting and Overexertion
- Slips and Falls (such as slipping on spilled liquids or non-compliance with harnesses)
- Falls down stairs
- Struck by objects or equipment (improperly secured boxes, etc.)
- Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles; trucks, tractors, etc.
The top five reasons for workplace injuries cost U.S. employers more than $60 billion. In fact, these were the same reasons as in 2019. As I always add, a workplace injury isn’t a minor bruise suffered in the company gym, but serious injuries requiring home rest or hospitalization.
What is Happening?
If most of America hadn’t been confined to home offices during 2020, the accidents, injuries and fatalities might have been higher across the board. After all of the safety messages it seems as though nothing changed. Why?
It is a matter of determination. “We” are not looking out for ourselves and we are not determined to look out for one another.
Unless we are all committed to safety, each one of us, individually, is at risk in the workplace. Safety did not take a pandemic holiday. While we were all focused on masks and vaccines – and rightly so – tens of thousands of our co-workers still suffered terrible accidents and injuries. We need a new safety mindset, here and now.
To contact Scott Burrows, Workplace Safety Motivational Keynote speaker for a virtual or in person presentation, please reach out to him through this new website or his office at: (520) 548-1169