Good September morning to you and farewell to the dog days,
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?
New research released yesterday for the Public Welfare Foundation shows that 85 percent of workers rate safety as the most important workplace issue. Can you believe it? Well, if a job’s not safe, what’s the point of flex time, break time, “a living wage” or on-site daycare? If you get hurt, you won’t be able to use flex time or see your kids at the center.
Still, I think more than 15 percent of workers will assume risks if the pay is good enough. Cut a worker’s pay by 25 percent, which happened in the recession, and ask him or her what the most important workplace issue is.
How do these numbers, from the same survey, sound to you: 12 percent of workers reported an on-the-job injury during the past year and 37 percent have required medical treatment at least once for a workplace injury.
About one in ten workers hurt on the job to some degree minor or major last year? Sounds reasonable, although not perhaps OSHA recordable. And one-third of workers requiring medical treatment at least once for an injury…during their careers? If that’s the timeframe, sounds credible.
SO WHY THE STRUGGLE?
We’re a long way from zero, zero incidents, zero injuries, according to the research. The consultants at VitalSmarts surveyed more than 1,600 frontline workers, managers and safety directors across 30 safety-conscious organizations and, according to a press release, uncovered reasons behind why improvements made in workplace safety over the last decade have begun to stall:
Employees' silence in five crucial moments is a leading cause behind avoidable workplace accidents, according to VitalSmarts. According to the study, while 93 percent of employees say their workgroup is currently at risk of “accidents waiting to happen,” only one in four employees speaks up and tries to correct unsafe conditions.
Wait a minute. If nine out of ten workers claim accidents are waiting to happen at their worksites, and these are in supposed “safety-conscious” organizations, the best of the best, safety and health pros have a long, long haul getting to zero. Audits and observations and management systems obviously aren’t doing the trick.
Do you believe this headline: “Accidents waiting to happen in 93 percent of worksites”?
Vital Smarts identified five threats to safety as being costly, common, and undiscussable (is that a word?):
“Get ‘er done.” Unsafe practices are justified by tight deadlines.
“You’re so incompetent I can’t talk about it.” Unsafe practices stem from skill deficits that can’t be discussed.
“Just this once…” Unsafe practices are justified as exceptions to the rule.
“This is over the top.” Unsafe practices bypass precautions considered excessive.
“Are you a team player or what?” Unsafe practices are justified for the good of the team, company, or customer.
So how common are these comments in your workplace?
OSHA yesterday published interim final rules (interim and final?) that establish procedures for handling worker retaliation complaints, allow filing by phone as well as in writing and filing in languages other than English.
“When workers believe their employers are violating certain laws or government regulations, they have the right to file a complaint and should not fear retaliation. Silenced workers are not safe workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels. “Changes in the whistleblower provisions make good on the promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they believe their employer is violating the law and cutting corners on a variety of safety, health and security concerns in the affected industries.”
OK, what about having the courage to come up to a peer, a co-worker, and say “I don’t feel safe around you. Your lack of skills, your shortcuts, your apathy, you’re gonna kill me.”
Who protects the worker in this conversation?
WHY POSTAGE IS GOING UP
This year, the Postal Service has been hit with almost $4.3 million in possible fines for alleged safety violations at its facilities, according to a list on the American Postal Workers Union's web site.
AND THAT WAS BEFORE THE RECESSION…
The most recent study by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) on job-related stress, done in 2006, reported that 13 percent of workers find their jobs always stressful, while 21 percent find their jobs often stressful.
That was before the recession of 2008-2009 (and 2010?) What percentage of the workforce is stressed-out today?