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Improving safety at the worksite

Workplace illnesses and injuries have declined across the nation. However, work-related deaths are on the rise. According to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2014, nearly 5,000 work-related fatal injuries occurred around the country, which marked the largest amount since 2008. Therefore, Pennsylvania employers should focus on making their workplace safer.

One way they can do this is by identifying risk factors. To help with the task, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety generates a safety index each year that identifies the leading 10 causes of disabling occupational injuries. The top five in most years are overexertion, falls on the same level, falls on lower levels, being stuck by a piece of equipment or other object, and other bodily reactions, such as reaching for a falling object or slipping without falling.

These workplace injuries are costly, especially those suffered by employees who were struck by objects or equipment, and when they fell to a lower level. These types of injuries added up to $10 billion in costs during 2013. The amount is likely to be higher in subsequent years, said an International Safety Equipment Association representative.

To reduce these risks, employers can take several common-sense steps. One is elimination, which basically means that employers should remove anything that can threaten the safety of the employees. For instance, if employees are required to work from heights, perhaps companies can determine if the job can be performed on the main level instead. Another step is substituting hazardous material for a safer one.

Since most employers are required by law to have workers' compensation coverage, employees injured on the job can exercise their right to file for benefits, which typically include medical care and a portion of lost wages. Employees whose claims are disputed or denied might want to have the assistance of an attorney when appealing that decision.

Source: SHRM, "A Layered Approach to Mitigating Workplace Safety Risks", Lisa Nagele-Piazza, Dec. 13, 2016

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