Did you know that last month was National Safety Month? In 1996, the National Safety Council (NSC) established June as National Safety Month in the United States. The goal of this Summer Safety Month is to increase public awareness of the leading safety and health risks that are increased in the summer months to decrease the number of injuries and deaths at homes (as well as the workplace).
The areas of safety are split into four parts: musculoskeletal disorders, workplace impairment, injury prevention and slips, and trips and falls. In the summer months, we typically see more dehydration and other heat-related illnesses due to the warm temperatures, car accidents and fatalities due to higher traffic volumes from vacationing, injuries from outdoor activities such as the swimming pool or bicycling, and more. By putting emphasis on these areas of safety, you can do your part to protect yourself and your family from injury or harm. Knowing that the following four areas are prominent, one can focus on their prevention through education and training.
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)
These disorders are also known as ergonomic injuries, which are complex ailments resulting from exposure to repetitive movements, awkward or static postures or forceful exertions. They are the most common injuries that take place, especially in the workplace. These injuries may include rotator cuff tears, back strains, carpal tunnel syndrome and are the most common causes of disability and early retirement among workers.
There are about 247,620 MSD injuries or illnesses involving days away from work, resulting in about 14 lost work days (which can lead to absenteeism, disability, or even workers compensation). The most common part of the body that is affected by these injuries is the back, from overextension involving an outside source. Trade, transportation, and utility industries are affected more than others by MSD, followed by education and health services. These injuries can happen at more than just work – be mindful when doing any strenuous activities outside of the workplace as well! Moving furniture, lifting heavy items, or even tossing a football incorrectly can cause overextension of these muscles.
Workplace impairment is anything that could impede one’s ability to function normally or safely – from chemical substances, such as alcohol, opioids, or cannabis, to physical factors like fatigue, as well as mental distress and social factors like stress. Although impairment has been a workplace safety issue for a long time, it has been found that the pandemic brought a new era of what this impairment means.
Increased mental health concerns including depression and anxiety have contributed greatly to workplace impairment in the past few years. The pandemic has also worsened the US’s overdose number – in 2021 there were an estimated 107,000 overdose deaths which was the highest ever recorded. Because mental health and wellbeing are important components to a successful and productive worker, employers should put as much emphasis on mental health safety as they do physical. Since the pandemic, many of us work remotely, meaning that our workplace is the home. Taking time to step away from the computer as well as breaks is important with preventing workplace impairment at home.
The leading safety issues each year typically vary. One year it could be exposure to harmful substances, another transportation incidents, and as of late – infection diseases such as COVID-19. Typically, the leading cause of injury in the workplace is overexertion such as lifting, pushing, pulling holding or carrying objects. In 2020, exposure to harmful substances or environments was the top way that employees were injured. There were 424,350 injuries or illnesses from this, resulting in an average of 13 days away from work (which is about 43.5 injuries per 10,000 full-time workers). COVID-19 was a big reason this ranking was brought to #1. Health care and social assistance were the industries most affected by exposure to COVID-19.
Slips, Trips, & Falls
The second leading cause of workplace death and third leading cause of workplace injuries is slips, trips, and falls. This not only affects employees in the workplace, but at home as well. It is important to always be alert and take the steps to avoid these injuries in all places. Even if an employee has the knowledge to avoid slips, trips, and falls – it is vital that the workplace constantly enforces safety in these areas as well as consistent practice and training.
Falls can happen when working at heights or even at the same floor level that you are standing. It is important to keep all passageways, walkways, and surfaces clean and orderly. Slip-resistant shoes are recommended on all wet floors – as well as floors covered in oil, heat, or chemicals. These accidents tend to cause soreness, pain, and even fractures – and can injure all parts of the body, especially lower extremities such as the knee or ankle. All of these situations can occur outside of the workplace as well, so keeping these tips in mind at home is vital for safety, too.
Although National Safety Month is just during the month of June – it is vital to stress the importance of safety all year long. Through consistent education, you can keep your family safe not only during the summer months, but all year long.