Statistics & People

For 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.

The 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 ( provided a Fact Sheet dated 9/12/97:

 In addition, the Oklahoma Department of Labor Public Sector 1998 Occupational Injury and Illness Report states that:


The Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Lost-Worktime Injuries: Characteristics and Resulting Time Away From Work, 1995 (which is available on their home page at offers some additional information:

  Learning from Statistics

While 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.

How 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?

Employee Title

  Employment Category

Age of Employee

  Sex of Employee

  Length of Employment

  Department Name

Date and Time of Incident

  Date and Time Incident Reported to Management

Employee Hazard Training

  PPE Needed

  PPE Required

  PPE in Use

  Exact Location of Incident

  Source of Injury/Illness

  Incident Event or Exposure

  Nature of Injury/Illness

  Part of Body Affected

  Medical Treatment

  Injury Classification

  Injury Counseling

  Property Damage

  Amount of Property Damage

  Amount of Time Employee Off Work

  Amount Paid by Workers’ Compensation

  Amount of Benefits Paid Off Work

  Amount of Benefits Paid Limited Duty

  Suspect Claim

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.

The Human Angle

Some 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).

Lessons Learned

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 names—only titles.

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.