There’s good news on the safety front for U.S. domestic industry: industrial work sites are safe than ever before, according to OSHA, which monitors work site safety, injuries and illnesses. OSHA reported these encouraging statistics in 2014:
- Fatal job-related injuries dropped by nearly 25% over the past decade
- The rate of work-related severe injury and illness fell between 2011 and 2012 for private sector and local government employees
- Overall, all work site injuries and illnesses dropped between 2011 and 2012
Ebola Raised Awareness of Disease Control Efforts
It wasn’t until the Ebola virus arrived in the U.S. that many people even thought much about disease control, despite widely-publicized efforts by public health authorities regarding vaccines, flu shots and proper hand washing.
Following the death of an Ebola patient in Texas and the subsequent infection of two nurses who cared for him, the CDC revisited their protective gear protocol to identify when and where the breach occurred in order to remedy it immediately; through the assessment, it was concluded that the nurses were exposed to the virus while removing their safety gear. One solution suggested by infectious diseases specialist Dr. Dalilah Restrepo is for hospitals to assign a trained infectious disease control professional to assist staff members with removing gear when they leave the room of an infected patient.
One reason the Ebola infection didn’t spread further is because of single-use medical supplies. In an article from the e-newspaper Infection Control Today, Douglas McConnell, MD said, “When a product is opened, used on a single patient and then thrown out, the risk of cross contamination from one patient to another drops to almost zero.” He also mentions that all hospitals need to adopt the use of medically-sealed disposable products and take advantage of modern technology that reduces cross contamination in medical settings.
The Construction Industry is Focusing on Reducing Work Site Fatalities
One in five worker deaths occurs in the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and most of those deaths occurred after a fall.
OSHA held a week-long awareness campaign in June 2014 to raise safety awareness and increase fall prevention efforts at construction sites. Writing in Equipment Today, safety and risk management consultant John J. Meola praises OSHA for its historic leadership in reducing construction accidents, starting with an historic agreement that requires architects and steel fabricators to build in fall protection attachments.
Meola urges management and owners to look at advances made in fall prevention equipment, like personal fall arrest harnesses worn inside vests and high-visibility jackets. These “slip on and clip on” devices are easy to use and, Meola points out, workers are more likely to take care of a garment than “a pile of nylon straps.”
Other new safety items on the market include retractable reels and roof anchorage brackets, which Meola says eliminate owners’ excuses for not providing harnesses. Planning for prevention and consulting with experts on proper use of safety gear should be a paramount concern.
Surgical Checklists Save Lives
More than a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) began reporting the high frequency of medical errors, including incorrect surgical procedures, medication dosages, and even mistaken patient identities. IOM and other medical study organizations recommended for hospitals to take a page from the aviation industry and start using checklists in the operating rooms to counter the potential for human error.
Countless articles have been published on the effectiveness of using checklists. Medscape Medical News reports on a study replicating surgical crises that showed teams using checklists missed lifesaving opportunities only six percent of the time. Teams working on the fly missed them almost a quarter of the time. Afterward, 97% of the trial participants supported the idea of using checklists.
Even communication checklists have proven value in medical settings. In July 2014, the journal Pediatrics wrote about a study in which a simple, four-item checklist lowered handoff-related complications between shift staff from nearly 26% to under nine percent.