Safety is important

Safety and accident prevention concerns managers for several reasons, one of which is the staggering number of work related accidents on one recent years 5,559 US workers died in workplace incidents. There were also over 4.4 million occupational injuries and illnesses resulting from accidents to work roughly five cases per hundred full time workers in the United states per year. One recent study estimates that such Bureau of Labor Statistics (which calculates workplace injuries and illnesses by sampling employers’ injury and illness logs) may actually underestimate the real number of injuries and illnesses by two or three times.

Injures are not just a problem in traditionally dangerous industries like mining and construction. For example, every year over 15,000 reportable injures or illnesses occur among semiconductor workers and another 15,000 occur at manufacturers of computers and computer peripherals. Commercial kitchens have hazards like knives and slippery floors. New computers contribute to sick building syndrome symptoms like headaches and sniffles which some experts blame on poor ventilation and dust and fumes from on site irritant’s (Two engineers found that new computers emit chemical fumes which however, diminish after the computer runs constantly for a week). And office work is susceptible to other health and safety problem including repetitive trauma injuries related to computer use, respiratory illnesses stemming from indoor air quality and high levels of stress, which are associated with a variety of factors, including task design.

The Hidden story

But even facts these don’t tell whole story. They don’t reflect the human suffering incurred by the injured workers and their families or the real economic costs incurred by employers. For example the direct injury costs of a forklift accident might be $4,500 but the indirect costs for things like forklift damage, lost production time, maintenance time, and emergency supplies could raise the bill to $18,000 or more. Nor do they reflect the legal implications. When a boiler explosion at Ford’s Rouge plant killed six workers and injured 14, Ford was slapped with a $1.5 million fine, and also agreed to spend almost $6 million instituting various safety measures. One senator was planning to introduce legislation making it a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment to cause a worker’s death through willfully violating OSHA regulations.

Yet even with all of this attraction there still are employers who seen to take safety less seriously then they should. For example, the New York Times, described in a story entitled ‘A family’s Profits Wrung from Blood and Sweat’ – a cast iron business that has been cited for more than 400 safety violations since 1995, four times more than its six major competitors combined and an environment in which mangers allegedly marked or dismissal employees who protested unsafe conditions.

Occupational Safety Law

Congress passed the occupational safety and Health act in 1970 to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources. The only employers it doesn’t cover are self employed persons, farms in which only immediate members of the employer’s family work, and some workplaces already protected by other federal agencies or under other statutes. The act covers federal agencies but its provisions usually don’t apply to state and local government tot heir role as employers.

The act created the occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Department of labor OSHA’s basic purpose is to administer the act and to set and enforce the safety and health standards that apply to almost all workers in the United States. The Department of Labor enforces the standards and OSHA has inspectors working out of branch offices around the country to ensure compliance.

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  • In organizations lot of safety policies are written down but sorry followed very scantingly. There is a need that policies be written in a simple way, the operations be viewed in depth for continuous improvements. Dedicated cells have to be created in terms of follow up of the procedures, monitoring and corrections all along.
    In my industrial experience of over 40 years in a large scale industry I believe that a dramatic improvement can be brought about if the safety procedures are folowed in true sense all along. We had formed a cell of S.H.E. ( safety, health and environment ) under TPM working . This was headed by a top senior member and supported by another 5/6 sr. officers. The working was reviewed every 15 days and the analysis were carried out in in depth to avoid any repetitions of accidents if any. This helped the management a lot and the working atmosphere became more congenial.


  • Jim

    Good intro to safety and why it is in place and should be used in workplaces. It goes much deeper than this…

    Today, families and workers have so much more to think about, participate in, and generally their time together is not much. this is why a work / life balance (read SAFE work / life balance) is critical. Employers can help this.

    A Human Resource professional should be the main cheerleader for understanding and taking up for workers to maintain this balance. however, they must also, with the help of your Safety manager help workers understand that if they are injured they cannot provide for their families. I like to tell them they cannot make a living on workers compensation, plus it is hard to enjoy life when you cannot play with the children!

    Making this personal to the employee and showing that every dollar spent on safety has an average ROI twice this amount or more gives us the opportunity to work both sides of the field though our greatest impact will be with the floor worker. Get them to buy-in by showing your compassion for their personal workplace and at home safety, and you have an ally for future events.

    Be safe!