THE REDUCTIONS IN THE NUMBER OF FATALITIES and the fatality rates from 1971 through 2016, as shown in the following statistical exhibits, are truly commendable. Those reductions occurred while employment increased 78%. Although an increase in the number of fatalities and the fatality rate occurred in 2016, as shown in Table 1, safety practitioners should avoid suggesting that the trend itself is a major indicator. Fatality rates for the past 6 years have varied from 3.3 to 3.6, which KEY TAKEAWAYS Data plainly indicate that the number of workplace fatalities and fatality rates have decreased significantly. But, statistics on fatalities for the past several years are in a narrow range. While serious injuries have also been reduced, they have become a larger percentage of workers' compensation claims. For both serious injuries and fatalities, stellar achievements seem to have plateaued. This article offers guidance to that purpose. Also, safety practitioners should be particularly aware of the trend experienced by the organizations they advise and of the trend for their industry. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for manufacturing are indicative; while the number of fatalities and the fatality rate were lower in 2016, the trend for the past 6 years is within a narrow range and may be considered as having plateaued. As Table 3 shows, clearly a significant reduction occurred in the percent of lost workday cases for incidents resulting in less-severe injuries, from 1 day through 6 to 10 days. More serious injuries, from 21 to 30 through 31 or more days, are a larger share of the remaining total.
I vividly remember when I first experienced a PowerPoint presentation. Initially, I was awestruck by the new technology; colorful images appeared, animated text bounced on screen and a comprehensive topic outline unfolded before my eyes. The screen-based presentation felt complete and self-contained. The presenter also displayed a new and methodical manner of speaking: systematically expounding on each bullet point at the moment it was revealed. I thought, “This is new. This is different. I’ve never witnessed a presentation like this before.”
Quickly, however, my fascination turned to disappointment. Less than 15 minutes after the program began, I noticed I was no longer paying attention to the message. In fact, the overload of on-screen text and interpretive commentary left my mind numb and my interest waning. By the end of session, I had decided this new communication method was ineffective and I vowed to never use PowerPoint in my future presentations.
Of course, I eventually changed my mind and now use the program often. But I do not use bullet points. This may seem strange to younger professionals who grew up in an era when bulleted lectures were standard practice. However, years of scientific inquiry have demonstrated that bullet points may not represent the best way to communicate. Specifically, researchers have found that comprehension often suffers when learners get lost in a barrage of distilled facts and generalizations. Bullet-point lectures rarely engage audiences in critical active learning strategies such as discussion, debate, introspection, social interaction and problem-solving. Additionally, bullet lectures often combine displayed text, spoken words and images in ways that may actually hinder comprehension and make learning more difficult (Jordan & Papp, 2013).
Achieving and maintaining an injury-free workplace require a cultural transformation from dependency and independency to interdependency. In other words, it is not enough for workers to rely on the company to keep them safe through engineering technology and enforcement of safety rules. Nor is it sufficient for employees to count on only their own individual effort to keep them free from personal injury. Rather, people need others to remove environmental hazards they do not notice and to provide corrective feedback for at-risk behavior they may not realize they are performing. Such interdependency requires routine interpersonal communication.
The overall work culture and human dynamics of the situation determine whether interpersonal exchanges for personal safety are likely to occur and whether the impact of such interactions will be beneficial or detrimental to OSH. The human dynamics of an organization simultaneously both reflect and influence its culture. That is, certain aspects of a work setting affect human dynamics, and these personal and interpersonal dynamics in turn alter the culture.
This article defines and illustrates seven C-words, which reveal basic human dynamics that can inhibit or facilitate the achievement and maintenance of a brother’s/sister’s keeper work culture for OSH. The first C-word, communication, influences each of the six others: courage, commitment, choice, competence, community and compassion (Figure 1).
Roth, Lori A. (Concurrent Technologies Corp.) | Hody, Brandon J. (Concurrent Technologies Corp.) | Chaffin, Christopher S. (Concurrent Technologies Corp.) | Laratonda, Elliot (Virginia Tech University) | Cook, Greg W. (U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet)
The increasing legalization of medical marijuana use presents a greater risk in the workplace. It presents organizational challenges to maintaining productivity, protecting equipment and property, and preserving employee safety and health. Historically, organizations developed anti-drug use policies and randomly drug tested employees to determine potential impairment at work; however, this strategy must evolve as the use of medical marijuana grows. While medical marijuana is legal, employers may not know if employees are impaired at work. This is a growing problem as several states have already legalized medical marijuana use (see the “Marijuana Legalization Status” sidebar), public support for marijuana legalization rises and many other states continue to consider bills on varying levels of reform (Ingraham, 2017; NCSL, 2018).
With the expansion of medical marijuana reform, previous workplace policies may potentially violate employee rights. While federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (i.e., drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse) (U.S. DEA, 2018), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) deferred enforcement to each state in 2013 (J.M. Cole, personal communication, Aug. 29, 2013; U.S. DOJ, 2013). Organizations must be wary of state laws regarding marijuana use and understand how the use can affect workplace safety and health, all while clarifying both employer and employee rights through the lawful execution of workplace drug policies.
Mindfulness is defined as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis and “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Although mindfulness has its origin in Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice, it has been applied as a treatment for a myriad of things, most notably mental and behavioral health issues (Brown, Ryan & Creswell, 2007; Hayes, Luoma, Bond, et al., 2006). Research on mindfulness has increased almost exponentially since the late 1970s and early 1980s with nearly 700 journal publications on mindfulness being recorded in 2017 (AMRA, 2018), giving way to promoting mindfulness and its beneficial results for many different applications including workplace wellness.
A state of mindfulness has been associated with many behavioral conditions, such as conscientiousness (Giluk, 2009; Latzman & Masuda, 2013), engagement, including traits such as commitment, loyalty, productivity and ownership (Wellins & Concelman, 2005), and improved task performance (Dane & Brummel, 2014; Shonin, Van Gordon, Dunn, et al., 2014). Notably, mindfulness has been shown more recently to positively influence worker safety in several limited studies (Betts & Hinsz, 2015; Dierynck, Leroy, Savage, et al., 2017; Huber, Hill & Merritt, 2015; Nolan, 2017; Zhang, Ding, Li, et al., 2013; Zhang & Wu, 2014).
Workplace safety is an essential part of business operations and the success for any professional work culture rests on a combination of factors such as management support, quality safety and health processes and procedures, effective safety training and employee buy-in. Safety leadership is important for achieving organizational safety goals, where leaders exert influence on employees through positive interactions. Transactional and transformational leadership are two unique leadership styles that have been broadly studied and reported (Gardner & Stough, 2002). Transactional leadership emphasizes work standards using reward or discipline-based systems to influence performance, while transformational leadership provides inspiration, stimulation, motivation and individualized consideration for each employee (Bass & Avolio, 1994). The influence from transformational leadership is more effective and yields better employee performance and satisfaction (Hater & Bass, 1988). This influence becomes even more effective when properly used with other applicable strategies such as emotional intelligence (EI) at every level of an organization.
EI is defined as the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional meanings, and to regulate emotions reflectively to promote both better emotion and thought (Mayer & Salovey, 1997). In simpler terms, it is our ability to recognize and understand not only our own emotions and reactions but also that of others. EI is vital for perceptive thinking, intuitive emotion response and managing stressful situations. It is an influential tool for team leadership, which helps with thorough situational awareness of how one’s words and actions can affect others. It is a gateway to a balanced life and is essential to every aspect of life including work environments. EI is widely considered an important variable in training, leadership development and team building by organizations (Joseph, Jin, Newman, et al., 2015). Employees with the ability to effectively manage their emotions and use emotional information have been found to perform better than those who lack such ability (Parke, Seo & Sherf, 2015). According to EI, success is strongly influenced by personal qualities such as perseverance, self-control and skill in getting along with others.
Contractor prequalification is a “pre-tender process used to investigate and assess the capabilities of contractors to carry out a contract satisfactorily if it is awarded to them” (Hatush & Skitmore, 1997; Truitt, 2012). Written safety program submission is frequently required of contractors for review by hiring organizations or their third-party service providers as a condition of contractor prequalification. Consider a recent study of safety professionals in which more than 57% of respondents rated the evaluation of contractor written safety programs as being very or extremely important during contractor safety prequalification (Figure 1; Wilbanks, 2017). Programs required by hiring organizations regularly include evidence of contractor employee orientation, training and prejob task and risk assessment (Inouye, 2015).
Petersen (2001) might have ascribed the affinity for program submission as stemming from the “OSHA Era” of 20th century safety management evolution. He complained that overemphasis to programs with inadequate emphasis given to the humans who are subject to them inevitably results in workers not caring about safety. “And we wonder why our programs don’t fly! (p. 120).” Programs are not safety, Petersen (2000) retorts, they are “islands of safety,” normally in answer to the dictates of OSHA but not integrated into the overall management system. Petersen (2001) challenges the effectiveness of programs, asking: “Are they effective? Do they change attitudes or behavior? Do they motivate or even communicate?” (p. 117).
A present-day answering of Petersen’s questions in the context of contractor prequalification is aided by the observations of Philips and Waitzman (2013), who offer that requiring program submission may have some value (Table 1).
Worldwide, workplace cancer prevention has a significantly lower profile than workplace injury prevention despite a real and present need to elevate the profile of workplace cancer prevention globally. Many organizations worldwide attest to the high number of annual work-related cancers and cancer deaths, but then say that workplace cancer statistics are underestimated, that the problem is worse than statistics bear out, and that the profile of workplace cancer prevention must be elevated. This apparent consensus begs a few questions. Supported by reputable resources from around the globe, this article explores several questions:
What Is Cancer & How Prevalent Is It?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 14th Report on Carcinogens, cancer affects almost everyone’s life, either directly or indirectly; approximately one out of two men and one out of three women living in the U.S. will develop cancer at some point in his/her lifetime (NTP, 2016). According to American Cancer Society (ACS, 2017a), cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. and accounts for nearly one of every four deaths. World Health Organization (WHO, 2017) estimates that worldwide in 2012 (the most recent data), 14 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths occurred, and that the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 20 years.
Imagine it is a hot summer day and David the field technician receives an electronic text for a service call in the middle of his morning schedule. David adjusts his schedule to accomplish an assigned urgent task: the repair or replacement of a cooling fan for a natural-gas-fired HVAC unit atop the roof of a customer’s correctional facility.
Arriving at the work site 30 minutes later via a company vehicle, David positions an extension ladder to gain access to the client’s roof. He troubleshoots the HVAC unit and determines the malfunction to be a faulty bearing set. David climbs down to his vehicle to obtain the replacement part and returns to the roof with an extension cord and a reciprocating saw to complete the work. He locates a rooftop electrical outlet to power his saw and begins to disassemble the unit. When the repair is completed, David intends to return to ground level, lower and stow the ladder and proceed to a nearby fast food establishment to take his lunch break and cool off.
OSH professionals will quickly grasp the serious injury and fatality (SIF) hazard potentials that this worker encountered while working alone, remotely or in isolation. Consider the motor vehicle operation, ladder ascent/descent, fall from an elevated working surface, flammable gas under pressure, electrical contact through a power tool and extension cord, energized electrical HVAC components, unexpected HVAC start-up, workplace violence potential and heat stress exposure due to elevated temperature extremes.
The risk appetite of U.S. employers is maturing to recognize and respond to the hazards of lone work. Old business paradigms of minimal staffing to achieve maximum profits are being countered with wise risk management decisions to produce quality service and products in a safe manner.
An estimated 53 million people are lone workers in the U.S., Canada and Europe (Myers, 2015). Once OSH professionals begin pondering the topic, work environments and tasks for which lone work has been accepted in the past, despite the related SIF potentials, are easily identified and countered.
Organizations may experience unintended negative side effects when productivity and profitability are pursued regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately, safety training may be perceived as a non-value-adding activity at best, or a waste of employee time and organizational resources at worst.
Conversely, when safety training is treated as an investment in human capital, the importance is highlighted for management. When employees are properly trained in safety, the benefits to their physical well-being can also be simultaneously borne by the machines, equipment or production materials they are working on and around. Effective training reduces the potential for unnecessary loss.
Whether the workplace is the factory floor of a manufacturing plant, on the ground at a building or development site, in the transportation infrastructure or any other sector of the economy involving a working association between humans and machines, knowledge of safety practices continues to be a relevant and integral part of employee training and growth.
A challenge often cited in the evaluation of safety training programs (Conklin, 2012; Cullen, 2007) is how to certify that the training actually sticks. When organizations prepare and deliver safety training that is lucid, comprehensive and compelling, the likelihood of retention increases. Well-designed and meticulously implemented training may reduce employee resistance and enhance engagement in safety efforts.