By John Howard, MD; Sydney Webb, PhD; and Trudi McCleery, MPH
The “S” in NIOSH could stand for science, super, or spectacular but as we all know (and maybe sometimes forget) it stands for safety. Safety is a critical part of the NIOSH mission: safety and health at work for all people through research and prevention.
Why Is Worker Safety So Important?
-4,821 U.S. workers died from work-related injuries;
-About 3.7 million workers suffered nonfatal injuries in the private sector and state and local governments;
–2.7 million workers were treated in emergency departments; and
–113,000 workers were hospitalized [MMWR].
The stats above show just how many workers are impacted by safety (or lack thereof) on the job. These numbers are staggering, when our research has demonstrated that workplace injury and death are preventable. The industries with the highest number of fatal injuries includes: services (1,354), construction (933), transportation/warehouse/utilities (832), agriculture/forestry/fishing (584), and trade (463). Focusing on the data can help us target industries and occupations with the greatest risk, and identify where we can make the greatest impact in protecting workers.
NIOSH has and continues to conduct a wealth of research related to worker safety. As we close out National Safety Month and the American Society of Safety Engineers holds its annual meeting we are highlighting just some of our safety-related research.
From 2003 to 2012 over 50% of the workplace homicides occurred within three occupation classifications: sales and related occupations (28%), protective service occupations (17%), and transportation and material moving occupations (13%). From 2011 to 2014, there were 54,250 nonfatal occupational injuries in the private industry from intentional injuries by other persons, which resulted in days away from work.
The Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector accounts for more than two-thirds of these injuries and illnesses each year. To learn more, visit our violence in the workplace topic page. If you’re a healthcare professional make sure to take our online violence prevention training and earn continuing education credit
Motor Vehicle Safety
Motor vehicle fatalities are the leading cause of work-related fatalities with over 22,000 deaths from 2003-2014. They represent the first or second cause of death in every major industry sector and account for 36% of all workplace fatalities. NIOSH’s Center for Motor Vehicle Safety (CMVS) works to reduce and eliminate motor vehicle crash-related injuries and fatalities. To do this, the CMVS crash-tested the patient compartment of ambulances to keep Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers safe; measured body dimensions of truck drivers to help manufacturers design safer and ergonomically correct truck cabs; and evaluated an in-vehicle monitoring system to help workers reduce risky driving behaviors.
Falls are a persistent occupational problem that occur across industries, not just in construction. Based on 2014 published data from BLS, 261,930 private industry and state and local government workers missed one or more days of work due to injuries from falls on the same level or to lower levels, and 798 workers died from such falls. For the past five years, NIOSH has participated in the National Falls Prevention Campaign. Additionally, NIOSH offers a number of products to help prevent falls in the workplace: aerial lift simulator,ladder safety app, healthcare slips, trips, and falls guide, and practical recommendations for slips, trips, and falls in the retail industry.
Oil and Gas
The oil and gas industry has one of the highest workplace fatality rates of any industry sector, spurred in part by a large number of new, inexperienced workers seeking to make a living in the booming field of hydraulic fracturing. NIOSH and OSHA recently released a Hazard Alert regarding worker fatalities during manual tank gauging and samples in the oil and gas extraction industry. The Alert covers the safety and health hazards workers may encounter when manually gauging or sampling fluids from production, flowback, or other tanks. This Alert helps bring NIOSH research to the industry by providing recommendations to improve worker safety when manually gauging tanks.
During the last 10 years (2005-2014), mine workers sustained 64,751 non-fatal injuries resulting in lost work time and 510 miners died from work-related injuries. That’s a rate of 2,019 non-fatal injuries and 16 fatalities per 100,000 full-time employees. Slips, trips, and falls are a leading cause of injury in mining. Current NIOSH research to address these sorts of injuries includes examining the way miners get into and out of their mobile equipment, mine workers’ boot tread wear, and LED illumination on and around mining equipment. Additionally, NIOSH is conducting research to prevent mine disasters. This research includes improved designs for mine degasification, advanced atmospheric monitoring systems, and the development of an alternative explosion suppressant.
How Has Our Research Made a Difference?