Workplace Injuries By the Numbers

In a report published in The Business Journal, Youngstown, OH, according to OSHA, some 4,000 Americans die annually from workplace injuries and 50,000 die of illnesses from workplace exposure. More than 3 million suffer serious, nonfatal injuries and illnesses each year.

Lisa Weis, compliance assistance specialist with OSHA’s Cleveland, OH, office, said, “All of this costs the economy about $198.2 billion per year.”

Of the fatalities recorded in OSHA’s Region V, which includes Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin, the three primary causes are workers struck by something, falls and workers caught in something. From fiscal year 2004 to 2016, those causes resulted in 1,268 fatalities or 80% of all fatalities, Weis reported.

For companies that have recorded fatalities in those three categories, Weis recommends giving the workplace a second and third look at how employees are exposed to those hazards. That review begins with determining the OSHA standards that apply to the business.

OSHA updates include new standards on silica, walking-working surfaces, and beryllium. Regarding silica, previous permissible exposure limits, or PEL, were “way too high compared to allowable levels,” and didn’t adequately protect workers from issues linked to exposure to breathable crystalline silica, Weis said, which can cause silicosis, lung disease, and lung cancer.

In addition to requiring proper respiratory equipment, the new standard decreases the PEL on silica exposure to 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

New technology and industry practices for walking-working surfaces and personal protective equipment for fall protection will affect about 6.9 million general industry employers and 112.3 million workers, she said. However, the changes are expected to prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 injuries annually.

Major changes include:

  • Fall protection flexibility for employers;
  • Updated scaffold requirements;
  • Phase-in of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on fixed ladders;
  • Phase-out of “qualified climbers” on outdoor advertising structures;
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems; and
  • Additional requirements for personal fall protection equipment.

The overall rule took effect Jan. 17, 2017.

OSHA penalties also increased, with annual adjustments for inflation. As of Jan. 13, penalty amounts are $12,934 per serious violation and per day beyond the abatement date for violations not abated, and $129,336 for each willful or repeated violation.

To help provide specific training for workers, OSHA works with other organizations to hold safety events throughout the year. “National Safety Stand-Down is a week-long event that addresses falls on construction sites, which is the leading cause of death for construction workers”, said Dave Constantino, loss prevention supervisor for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Of the 991 construction fatalities recorded in 2016, 370 were caused by falls from elevation.