As a safety manager, it is easy to focus on top of mind safety concerns such as slips and falls, PPE and safe driving. However, there are growing trends that may not be on your radar: heat exposure and workplace violence. Let’s take a look into these trends and action steps to keep your workforce out of harm’s way. 

Heat exposure

Injuries and deaths relating to heat exposure are on the rise. From 1992 to 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 783 deaths and 69,374 serious injuries. In 2015 alone, 37 workers died and 2,830 suffered from heat-related injuries.

Whether in a poorly ventilated room or in the blazing sun, workers are susceptible to heat exposure nearly anywhere. The most common industries to face high temperatures are transportation and material moving, production, installation, maintenance and repair, construction and extraction, building and ground, cleaning and maintenance.

However, OSHA started a campaign for preventable heat exposure that stresses the importance of hydration, rest, emergency prevention step and recognizing heat symptoms. It can be summarized in the slogan: “Water. Rest. Shade.” With this simple idea in mind, employers are encouraged to provide their employees with an appropriate number of breaks when the workload increases or if the heat is especially intense.

The campaign provides material and resources for training sessions, outreach events, social media and hand-out publications. OSHA and NIOSH collaborated and created a smartphone app for workers which determines temperature and humidity to measure heat index values. 

To highlight the emerging threat of heat illness, the topic was discussed at the 2019 AAOHN National Conference in the opening keynote “Navigating Currents at OSHA - Toward Safe and Sound Workplaces”. Watch the startling statistics on heat illness and death here.

Workplace violence

Workplace violence isn't as uncommon as we would hope. It’s an act or threat of harassment, intimidation or threatening disruptive behavior, ranging from verbal threats and abuse to physical attacks or even death. While most of us feel at ease in the workplace, a recent study determined that one out of seven workers feels unsafe at work.

In 2013, the Bureau for Labor Statistics reported 404 workplace homicides, which grew to 417 in 2015. According to OSHA, nearly 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence each year, while many more cases go unreported.

Only 36% of companies reported having a violence prevention program. Within that 36%, only 49% of American workers are trained in case of an act of violence in the workplace.

Despite its rise, companies are taking preventative action against workplace violence through education, training and legislation. Recently, ASSP’s Safety 2019 conference featured a think tank called “Defusing the Ticking Time Bomb of Workplace Violence,” which informed attendees on signals of workplace violence and provided tactics like verbal deflection, persuasion, redirection to deter aggressive individuals.

Moreover, in June 2019, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) sponsored a bill that seeks an enforceable federal standard to disparage the growing level of violence against caregivers like social workers, nurses, emergency responders and doctors. The legislation is currently advancing to the full House.

Given all this information, what are the next steps to take preventative action? Both OSHA and SHRM (you must be a SHRM member to access) offer prevention programs/toolkits for evaluating and controlling violence while at work, applicable for industries across the board. Companies are highly encouraged to promote a “zero tolerance” policy on violence in the workplace, ensuring the protection of workers, clients, contractor, visitors and anyone else who comes into contact with an employee. 

Sources

Heat exposure

·         Work injuries in the heat in 2015

Bureau of Labor Statistics

·         Occupational Heat Exposure

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

·         Heat-Related Illnesses

United States Environmental Protection Agency

·         Water. Rest. Shade.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Violence

·         Injuries, Illness and Fatalities

Bureau of Labor Statistics

·         Workplace Violence

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

·         Workplace Violence: A growing threat, or growing in awareness?

Society for Human Resources Management

·         Workplace Violence

Society for Human Resources Management

·         Bill to protect health care, social services workers from violence advances out of House committee

Safety and Health

 

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This is business-to-business information intended for EHS (environmental health and safety) professionals and not intended for the final consumer. Companies should check the local regulatory status of any claim according to their individual needs, requirements and intended use.