One of the primary goals for any company, despite its size, location, or industry sector, is to provide a safe workplace. Companies prioritize safety because they care about their workforce and want to foster a healthy environment to help maximize employee well-being and productivity. As National Safety Month, the month of June holds a special place for safety, as businesses work to help bring awareness and education to help minimize accidents and injuries at work.
June is National Safety Month
National Safety Month was established in 1996 by the National Safety Council (NSC) to bring awareness to safety and health risks in America in the hope of reducing injuries and fatalities. The 2020 campaign will be a little different because of the impact of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the millions of employees now working remotely. This year, topics will focus on mental health, ergonomics, and building a culture of safety.
Research on workplace injuries
The NSC estimates that a worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. And, the top workplace injuries that cause an employee to miss work — overexertion, contact with objects and equipment, and slips, trips, and falls — can be prevented.
The latest data available from Injury Facts®, a report from NSC, showed 4.5 million work-related medically consulted injuries occurred in 2017, costing employers $161.5 billion. That means a worker’s injury was serious enough to contact a healthcare professional. And, costs are measured in lost productivity and pay, healthcare expenses, damage to property or a vehicle, and administrative and financial burdens to an employer.
Working from home
A survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 9.8 million workers in private sector jobs have access to flexible work, which includes working from home. More recent Gallup data from the end of April 2020 showed that 63% of U.S. employees said they had worked from home in the past seven days because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those surveyed said they would continue to follow social distancing practices and business/school closures but acknowledge a disruption to their physical, emotional or mental health to varying extents. That said, this pandemic creates a new threat to safety with worry, anxiety, and increased alcohol and substance use.
Drug use in the workforce
Another safety issue that the NSC has prioritized is drugs at work and, more specifically, opioids. The NSC estimates that three-quarters of the 21 million Americans struggling with alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, and other substance use disorders are employed. An NSC survey showed that employers are concerned about opioid abuse, the ability to hire qualified workers, and the costs of benefits and workers’ compensation. More than 75% of employers said they were impacted in some way by employee opioid use and impaired performance by a worker.
Sadly, drug overdoses rank as the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 67,367 people died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2018.
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Today more than ever safety is top-of-mind. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic creates new potential threats to safety with worry, anxiety, and increased alcohol and substance use. Employers can take this opportunity to spread the word about the importance of safety in our communities as well as in our workplaces and take action to make change to help enhance safety.
The NSC features a toolkit called Guidance for Employers: COVID-19 and the Workplace as well as an interactive map.
Gallup. Coronavirus Pandemic. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://news.gallup.com/poll/308222/coronavirus-pandemic.aspx
Hedegaard H, Miniño AM, Warner M. Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2018. NCHS Data Brief No. 356, January 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db356.htm.
Hersman, Deborah A.P. National Safety Council. How the Prescription Drug Crisis is Impacting American Employers. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/NewsDocuments/2017/Media-Briefing-National-Employer-Drug-Survey-Results.pdf
National Safety Council Injury Facts®. National Safety Council. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/
National Safety Council. Workplace Injuries. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/tools-resources/infographics/workplace-injuries
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employee Benefits Survey: National Compensation Survey – Benefits. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/