The good news is that occupational injuries and fatalities throughout the nation are lower than the year before – but despite the positive report, other industries sustained startlingly higher figures than ever before.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2011 last month, and while many of the results from 2011 show an improvement, nearly half of U.S. states reported an increase in workplace fatalities over last year's figures. According to reports, occupational fatalities occurred 3.5 times per 100,000 full-time workers compared to 3.6 times for the same amount of workers in 2010.
The upswing in workplace fatalities occurred mainly in what's considered traditionally dangerous occupations such as transportation, warehouse and freight trucking.
For the transportation and warehouse sectors, fatalities increased by 11 percent, the highest figure reported since 2008. Worse, truck transportation fatalities surged by 14 percent since last year. And the freight trucking industry saw the highest leap in occupational fatalities, leading all other sectors by 16 percent.
As for professionals, fatalities were up by 16 percent as well, suggesting unsafe office environments or possibly hazardous workplace conditions. Other notable increases also were found in landscape services, police force, maintenance and government workers.
Your Job, Your Safety
It's true that no matter what kind of job you hold, workplace injury is a possibility. From the presumably safe jobs like office or retail, to “dangerous” jobs such as transportation, mining or industrial occupations, you can stay safe on the job when you consider these safety tips:
Know your limits – As with any job, you must become familiar with your surroundings and know your limits, whether your job is in the office or on the road. It's a good idea to be prudent with any extraordinary job duty that you normally don't do. For example, if you're an office worker, don't lift heavy boxes like paper pallets or try moving large pieces of furniture around. Heavy or large objects can fall, or you can injure yourself with physical force, so don't risk it. If you're in a totally different industry – a warehouse worker, for example – don't attempt to use equipment that you're not trained to use or unlicensed to do. Doing so can lead to serious injury for you or a coworker. All too often, when employees engage in activities beyond their scope of work, the risk of injury skyrockets.
Follow safety procedures – It doesn't matter what line of work you're involved in, there usually a protocol for work-related procedures that present a certain level of risk. Don't cut corners. Your safety and the safety of others around you depend on it. Always follow guidelines as posted.
Flag a supervisor in unsafe situations – If you're aware of any work-related conditions that are unsafe for you or your coworkers, or if you suspect any safety rules are not being adhered to, it’s best to contact your supervisor to alert them as soon as possible. Telling a manager about unsafe conditions is essential for promoting an environment free from the risks that can cause personal injury or even death.
Don't be afraid to speak up – Share your occupational safety tips or let us know how you've improved your workplace environment by joining the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.
About Michael Pines: Michael Pines founded the Law Offices of Michael Pines, APC, in San Diego in 1992. He is an accident and injury prevention expert in San Diego, and he is on a campaign to end senseless injury one blog at a time.