every national statistic of occupational injuries and illnesses, there are
affected human beings. While those
of us in safety tend to think in types of injury and medical costs, we may at
times forget that these statistics are reflected in the faces of the men and
women with whom we work on our campuses and throughout our state.
national statistics are staggering—one of the reasons why corporations take
occupational safety so seriously. A
visit to the Centers for Disease Control home page (http://www.cdc.gov)
provided a Fact Sheet dated 9/12/97:
1980 to 1992, more than 77,000 workers died as a result of work-related
injuries. This means that an
average of 16 workers die each day from work-related injuries, and more than
17,000 are injured.
cost of work-related injuries and fatalities is estimated to be greater than
$121 billion annually. In
1994, 6.3 million workers suffered nonfatal occupational injuries that
resulted in lost work time or medical treatment.
1980 to 1992, the leading causes of occupational injury were motor vehicles,
machines, homicides, falls, electrocutions, and falling objects.
1993 the leading causes of nonfatal occupational injuries were overexertion,
contact with objects or equipment, and falls.
to set research and prevention priorities in traumatic injury must be driven
by data that illuminates the nature and magnitude of these injuries.
The challenge is to develop information systems that
allow new preventive efforts to target high-risk worksites.
addition, the Oklahoma Department of Labor Public Sector 1998 Occupational
Injury and Illness Report states that:
State employees died on-the-job in 1996.
1996 there were 54,796 employees in State government. The job-related injury and illness rate for State employees
was 6.6 per 100 full-time workers.
1996 there were 18,510 employees in Oklahoma colleges and universities.
The total case incident rate was 5.5 and the lost workday case
incident rate was 2.8. The
incident rate is calculated as IR = number of injuries and illnesses/total
hours worked by all employees during the year X 200,000 [base for 100
full-time equivalent workers @ 40 hours week/50 weeks per year].
Lost workday cases are those which involve days away from work or
days of restricted work activity or both.
colleges in Oklahoma reported 7,438 employees with a total case incident
rate of 4.1 and a lost workday case incident rate of 1.5.
Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Lost-Worktime Injuries: Characteristics
and Resulting Time Away From Work, 1995 (which is available on their home
page at http://www.bls.gov) offers some
of all workers afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome missed 30 days or more
of work. Work-related hernias,
amputations (usually involving the finger), and fractures also commonly kept
workers off the job for several weeks, as did about a fourth of sprains and
strains involving workdays lost.
four most disabling conditions were carpal tunnel syndrome, hernias,
amputations, and fractures. Men
were more likely than women to experience three of the four types of severe
injuries, but women outnumbered men with CTS.
manner in which workers sustained severe injuries differed, suggesting that
remedies to prevent such injuries need to address a variety of
circumstances. Virtually all cases of CTS resulted from stress or strain
upon a worker’s wrist due to a task’s repetitive nature. By contrast, about 3/5 of amputations involved a worker’s
finger being caught in or compressed by a piece of equipment, machinery, or
an object. 7/8 of hernias
resulted from over-exertion—primarily while lifting heavy objects. 7/8 of fractures were due to falls or workers being struck by
the CDC believes there is not enough pertinent data being collected,
there are enough national statistics to back up something that we already
know—there are too many injuries that could easily have been prevented!
While national statistics for industry don’t necessarily relate
directly to higher education operations on our Oklahoma campuses, they do
provide a foundation for the data we should be gathering.
much and what type of information exists in your workers’ compensation files
that could be used to pinpoint (1) trends in injuries and costs, (2) which
employees are being injured, and (3) which programs should be enacted to prevent
those injuries? Data is strictly…bits of information. It’s only when you use
the collective information that your administration has an effective tool for
your loss prevention and control program.
Use Your Data
Could you use the following to
inform administrators on the scope of occupational safety needs for your campus?
trends of injuries/illnesses
record; for tracking trends and comparing loss costs by category
record; for tracking trends and comparing loss costs by category
0-1, 1-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20+ years; for tracking trends and identifying
locating high-hazard operations and focusing safety audits
Date and Time of Incident
for management to locate any unacceptable delays in the reporting of
yes or no; was PPE required to be in use?
yes or no; was PPE in use at the time of the incident?—use the PPE data as a tool for identifying where hazard assessments should be done and those employees (and supervisors) who need training, counseling, or discipline
for locating physical hazards or defects in operations, equipment, or facilities
upon the OSHA criteria—chemical and hazardous materials; motion or
position; floors, walkways, and ground surfaces; containers; furniture and
fixtures; parts and materials; machinery; tools, instruments, and equipment;
vehicles; violence, etc.
upon the OSHA criteria—head, eyes, neck, trunk, shoulders, back, finger,
hand, wrist, arm, toe, foot, knee, leg, body systems, multiple parts, etc.
You may have noticed that the OSHA’
criteria and categories for injuries and illnesses appear somewhat limited,
which is possibly the reason that the CDC believes that additional information
is needed. The information you want to provide to your administration is the true
cost of employee injuries/illnesses on your campus and the areas where your
prevention efforts should be focused.
Should you worry about multiple reoccurrences of minor injuries, or do you focus your efforts on prevention of one or two severe injuries with high price tags? Have you done the training that is needed? Have you done hazard assessments and safety audits? Have you provided the PPE that is needed and is the PPE being used? Have you done accident investigations? Have employees received counseling for ignoring safety rules? What is the total cost in time and dollars for the injuries that occur? Have the total injury and illness costs, in addition to the dollars spent on workers’ compensation insurance, escalated over time? What is the projected future cost? This is the data you should use.
of us who work in safety and workers’ compensation have dealt with either a
severe workplace injury/illness and/or suspected fraud-ulent
injury/illness—sometimes multiple cases of both.
As with anything else, over time you may become immune to the injuries,
suspected fraud, or sheer numbers of workers’ compensation claims on your
campus. We would like you and your
administration to consider the cost of safety from the human angle—the pain
and suffering of the injured employee, his/her family and loved ones, and
his/her coworkers. For that reason,
we are going to provide you with some personal insight into a severe injury that
occurred on the OU campus (for which we had already provided our lessons learned
in the July, 1997 issue).
What one institution learns from a
bad experience should be shared with other members to ensure that some other
campus doesn’t fall into the same trap. This
is our story…do you have one?
Upon hearing of a serious burn
incident, we went to the incident site and learned that the burn resulted from
failure to lockout/tagout. Two
crews were working—one crew had been trained and one had not.
Both crews failed to follow lockout/tagout procedures.
When one employee bumped a steam valve, another employee was severely
burned. First lesson…the training of employees and supervisors is of
continuing importance and seemingly never-ending.
After investigation of the incident,
we issued a report in which we used employee names and titles.
By request, our media office provided a copy of the report to the local
newspaper under the Open Records Act. Consequently,
a story was published in which employee names appeared.
Second lesson…we will never again write a serious incident report using
In the excitement, we didn’t think about counteracting the emotional pain of the employees on the scene when the incident occurred. Third lesson…we will ask the department to provide critical incident debriefing by trained counselors for the traumatized workers. Our media office will ask the President to make a get-well phone call to the injured employee, and we’ll solicit cards and calls from the campus.