Strong corporate safety cultures foster safe communities

Alan C. McMillan, National Safety Council
Tags: workplace safety

Recently released injury data provides mixed reviews of the nation’s safety and health in our workplaces, on our roads, and in our homes and communities, while providing a sharper focus for addressing troubling injury trends.


In 2005, there were more than 113,000 preventable deaths and 24 million disabling injuries in this country, according to the National Safety Council’s Injury Facts. Even allowing for high-risk industries and national demographic shifts, a 15-year trend continues to show declines in the rate of injuries occurring in the workplace (down 17 percent) and on our highways (down 16 percent). However, since 1992, the rate of injuries occurring in our homes and communities has risen 30 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control rank injuries, both unintentional and intentional, as the leading cause of death among people aged 1 to 45 and the fourth-leading cause of death overall.


Through premature death, disability, lost productivity and skyrocketing health costs, injuries have become one of the most serious public health issues facing the United States.


The costs of all injuries to society has grown to more than $625 billion nationally, or $5,500 per household. Surprisingly, more than half of all injury-related deaths, and 75 percent of all disabling injuries, occur in and around the home.


And while a majority of accidental injuries happen outside of the workplace, employees and their dependent family members account for more than 60 percent of both injury-related deaths and disabling injuries.


For employers and safety professionals, this presents substantial challenges. Because while the risk of injury in the workplace has greatly diminished, it is the employer who feels the impact when an employee – or a dependent family member – is seriously or fatally injured.


In 2005, the cost of employee injuries exceeded $384 billion. However, nearly two-thirds of those costs were for injuries to employees who were off the job.


Trauma has the third-largest share of total medical expenditures, following heart disease and cancer. In fact, for people between the ages of 18 and 64 with private health insurance – including employer-provided health insurance – more is spent on medical care for trauma and poisoning than for any other health condition.


As employers and safety leaders, we have a responsibility to continue to ensure that our nation’s workplaces are safe and that employees have the training and experience to perform their jobs safely.


Just as we have come to expect a corporate responsibility for sending employees home safe and healthy and the end of each day, employers also need to recognize the corporate and social value of having employees come to work as safe and healthy as they were when they left.


As safety professionals, we know that accidents are preventable.


We know that awareness plays a huge role in reducing the risk of injury.


We know that changes in behavior and basic preventive measures can save lives.


We also know that when safety is a core corporate value, zero injuries is an achievable goal.


Businesses that embrace a corporate culture of safety and health go way beyond rules and regulations to encourage employees and their families to adopt safe and healthy behaviors in all aspects of their lives.


That corporate commitment to safety and health is the foundation of a safe and healthy community. And that’s something to celebrate, during National Safety Month in June and throughout the year.

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