Safety programs are naturally focused around hazards. We identify job site hazards and implement policies to control or eliminate those risks. But what if we went at it from the other direction – identify the types of injuries that occur and focus on preventing those classifications?
I wondered about this when I saw a listing of types of injuries both as a percentage of total injuries and direct cost. It comes from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, which has long been a leader in safety research. Every year, the group puts together a list of injuries based on the latest data. Here’s what the 2016 report looks like:
In total, Liberty Mutual found that businesses spend more than $one-billion a week on nonfatal injuries, for a total of almost $62-billion a year. The 80-20 rule also applies – eighty percent of the injuries come from the top categories of injury types. By far, the top cause is overexertion involving outside sources, meaning injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing objects. Those types of injuries make up a quarter of the total.
We should never turn away from hazard identification as a foundation of safety, but can we also focus on injury types. To some extent that is the health part of Health, Safety and the Environment. Some companies are having a great deal of success in reducing musculature injuries by training workers on avoidance skills – stretching, proper lifting techniques and awareness. For many companies, that involves a cultural shift.
The other piece involves occupational health. Knowing that certain injuries are more likely to occur, focus on ensuring that new hires are capable of performing their specific job duties. If an injury does occur, ensure that appropriate treatment is used to reduce the long-term impact, find light duty work that can be performed while the worker heals and use a case management process get workers back to work as soon as is practical.