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How to Participate in National Safety Month in 2022
Every job has safety hazards but the construction industry is particularly high-risk. There are on average 150,000-175,000 construction injuries annually, with more than 5,000 fatalities. Even one fatality per year is too much. These incidents are fully preventable with a robust safety program and clear protocols for every worksite.
June is National Safety Month, when we devote energy to raising awareness about construction safety hazards. At ARC, we believe "Safety is 24/7," and we firmly believe safety education is crucial for preventing worksite incidents. Investing in safety means investing in the industry's overall sustainability.
Read on to learn how you can participate in National Safety Month.
The History of National Safety Month
The National Safety Council founded National Safety Month in 1996 to raise awareness about safety hazards for industrial workers. We have come a long way since the early days of factories and modern construction. In 1913, the National Safety Council stated that an estimated 20,000 workers died every year.
Over the following decades, the government and private sector implemented progressively stronger safety regulations. President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1970, creating OSHA and thereby establishing a national framework for safe working conditions.
However, there remains much work to be done. While the fatality rate has declined significantly over the past century, factory and construction workers are still at high risk for debilitating injuries. Greater demand for products and buildings has made projects more fast-paced and complex, which increases the risk of safety incidents.
We also now see that psychological health is just as important as physical health. Preventing burnout, creating more inclusive workplaces, and providing support for workers' well-being are the new frontier for occupational health and safety.
What's Happening This Year for National Safety Month?
The 2022 National Safety Month focuses on four key areas:
Frequent lifting, twisting, climbing, and other such movements can lead to repetitive strain injuries (RSI), arthritis, herniated discs, and many other health conditions. Construction, factory, or warehouse workers are highly susceptible to these health risks. In fact, MSDs are the leading cause of workplace injury.
Safety training must include proper lifting technique, joint protection, and RSI recovery. All workers should have adequate rest breaks to avoid overexerting their bodies. These principles apply to most industries.
There's no question that the past few years have been immensely stressful. Substance use is on the rise — and so is workplace impairment. More construction workers have reported being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job.
Depression, anxiety, and burnout rates are also sky-high, and these conditions can impair one's judgment and focus at work. Resources for mental health support and addiction recovery are crucial for worksite safety.
OSHA declares that all worksite safety incidents are preventable. Injuries can be traced back to improper technique, faulty equipment, workplace hazards, or a combination thereof.
Therefore, a mix of policies and procedures, safety training, and hazard mitigation can make worksites safer. This is especially true in the construction industry, where heavy equipment, working at height, and dangerous chemicals often coincide. Many incidents happen when safeguards are not in place or workers don't follow safety procedures. Sometimes, they simply aren't aware of the proper technique or protocol. That's why safety training is so important.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Falls are the second-leading cause of worksite fatalities. This National Safety Month, we're raising awareness about the risk factors for slips, trips, and falls. Such incidents are much more likely in any job where people are working at height (e.g. on ladders or scaffolding). Like injury prevention in general, fall prevention focuses on removing hazards and teaching proper techniques.
Knowing the basics of safe ladder use isn't the only occupational safety concern. Everyone who climbs a ladder should understand the risks and how to protect themselves. Even falling from a short height can be deadly.
What Can You Do for National Safety Month?
No matter your industry, you can help your team learn about occupational health and safety in June — and beyond! Many people simply don't know the risks of their worksite. And because we're talking about psychological safety as well, it's important to have conversations about mental health and burnout in the workplace.
Here are some activities you can do:
Conduct a fire inspection and drill. Are all your worksite's alarms working? Do you have fire extinguishers at strategic points, and are they all operational? Have you posted exit routes? Once you've checked all those, have your team practice a fire drill to ensure everyone knows the procedure.
Learn proper ladder technique. Different ladders have different weight limits and positioning/angling requirements. Make sure your team knows what these are. In most cases, one should maintain three points of contact on the ladder while climbing.
Talk about mental well-being. This is an uncomfortable but important situation. Teach your team how to identify signs of burnout or crisis in themselves and others. Ask them how they're feeling about their workload, capability to perform their job, and sense of psychological safety. (Tip: Provide an option for anonymous feedback.)
Train workers on safe lifting techniques and joint care. Many people don't know how to lift heavy objects. Teach them the right muscles to engage, how to perform a team lift, and what to do if they strain a muscle or joint. If your team tends to act "macho," inform them that it isn't about how strong they are: repetitive motion and incorrect muscle engagement can still cause injury.
National Safety Month is a time to raise awareness about occupational health and educate everyone on how to prevent injuries. In our view, though, every month is National Safety Month. We're committed to making safety a 24/7 endeavor — and so should you! Take this opportunity to lay a strong foundation for what is hopefully an incident-free year to come.