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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a rise in work-related deaths in 2016 - 5,190 U.S. workers died on the job, 14 per day. This is the highest annual figure since 2008.

Fact sheet - https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

Opioid prescriptions have nearly quadrupled since 1999 in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These pain killers are addictive, and that addiction has caused a rippling effect across our communities and in the workplace.

The latest numbers from CDC show that 64,070 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, a 21 percent increase over the year before. Approximately three-fourths of these deaths are now caused by opioids. While the opioid crisis is usually portrayed as a problem with the jobless population, some studies have shown that around two-thirds of those who report abusing painkillers are still employed.

Since 2012, the number of people dying from drug or alcohol related causes while on the job has been growing by at least 25 percent each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While this statistic is striking, many others in the workplace right now are using prescription drugs to manage pain and not being able to perform to their potential. Around 70 percent of employers surveyed by the National Safety Council (NSC) have seen some impact of prescription drug use – from missed shifts to impaired work.

When a job involves heavy machinery, having mentally aware workers with fast reflexes is required to keep not only themselves safe, but those around them as well. Opioids hamper brain function and productivity, resulting in an increase in workplace accidents and workers’ compensation claims. According to a study, the opioid abuse costs businesses $16.3 billion in 2013 in disability claims and productivity, and medical costs for opioid abusers are close to twice that of non-abusers. Along these same lines, the average worker misses about 10 days per year, but those abusing pain medication or using heroin miss an average of 29 days of work per year (NSC).

The combination of lowered productivity, higher health care and substance abuse treatment costs, as well as missed work, add up to an economic burden of $78.5 billion, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). To try to combat the drug crisis, many employers are turning to drug testing in pre-employment screening, but make sure the panels you are using include specific testing for opioids. 

Other than drug testing, employers can take a more proactive stance, including having an opioid use education component as part of their program. Another thought is to provide training for supervisors on the signs of abuse and knowing how to refer employees to their Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if applicable, or help them seek medical treatment. Some companies have used “lunch and learns” to discuss opioid abuse and mental health issues with employees, as well as promoting alternative pain management options, such as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulative treatments.

The opioid crisis is impacting our country in epidemic proportions, and the workplace is feeling the effects in many ways.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc., the operators of Bradenton-based Suncoast Behavioral Health Center, for failing to protect employees from violence in the workplace. Proposed penalties total $71,137.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region4/05022018

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has requested information on the use of automated technologies in the transportation of hazardous materials, according to a document published in the Federal Register March 22.

PHMSA has issued this request for information to ensure the safe transportation of hazardous materials “in anticipation of the development, testing and integration of Automated Driving Systems,” according to the document. The Federal Register notice cites the growing presence of automated technologies in the transportation system, particularly on highways and over rail.

Read entire article - http://www.ttnews.com/articles/phmsa-requests-input-transporting-hazardous-materials-automated-technologies

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Did you know in the United States that cloud-to-ground lightning happens 20 to 25 million times a year? Even with such frequency, for some reason, lightning is overlooked too often as an occupational hazard. It doesn’t get the attention of other deadly weather storms, such as hurricanes, floods or tornadoes, because it doesn’t result in mass destruction or mass casualties. But anybody working outdoors in open spaces, on or near tall objects or near explosives or conductive materials have a significant risk to being struck by lightning.

In a typical year, the central Ohio Valley, including Indiana, sees some of the most frequent lightning activity across the United States. Summertime is the peak season for lightning and a great time to educate your employees about lightning and what precautions should be taken to prevent worker exposure to this dangerous natural force.

Lightning 101 – When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

  • Lightning can strike as far as 25 miles away from its parent thunderstorm – much farther out from the area of rainfall within the storm.
  • Thunderstorms always include lightning – any thunder you hear is caused by lightning.
  • Nowhere outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
  • If you hear thunder, you are within striking distance.
  • Seek safe shelter and stay there until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
  • Don’t use corded phones as this is one of the leading causes of indoor lightning injuries – cordless and cell phones are safe to use as long as they are not being charged.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords as anything using electricity is susceptible to a lightning strike.
  • Avoid plumbing as metal plumbing and the water inside are both very good conductors of electricity.
  • Refrain from touching concrete surfaces – lightning can travel through the metal wires and bars in concrete walls and flooring, such as in a basement or garage.

Remember, there is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm, so seek full-enclosed, substantial buildings with interior wiring and plumbing as these will act as an earth ground. But what if workers are caught outdoors?  These are National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recommendations to decrease the risk of being struck:

  • Lightning will likely strike the tallest objects in the area, so make sure it’s not you.
  • Avoid such things as isolated tall trees, hilltops, utility poles, cell phone towers, cranes, large equipment, ladders, scaffolding or rooftops.
  • Avoid open areas, such as fields, and never lie flat on the ground.
  • If you must be near trees, find a dense area of smaller trees that are surrounded by larger trees or retreat to low-lying areas.
  • Avoid water – immediately get out of and away from such places as pools, lakes or oceans.
  • Avoid wiring, plumbing and fencing as lightning can travel long distances through metal.

Many people often wonder about the safety of their own vehicle during lightning. There have been enough reported incidences and injuries to know the myth of being completely safe in a car is just that - a myth. If you find yourself in your car during a lightning storm, it is best to pull off to the side of the road, turn on your emergency blinkers, turn off the engine and put your hands on your lap until the storm passes. Do not touch door or window handles, radio dials, CB microphones, gearshifts, steering wheels and other inside-to-outside metal objects.

On the other hand, heavy equipment, such as backhoes, bulldozers, loaders, graders, scrapers and mowers, which have an enclosed rollover system canopy (ROPS) are considered safe, so you should shut down the equipment, close the doors and sit with hands in lap until the storm has passed. Smaller equipment without ROPS, such as small riding mowers, golf carts and utility wagons, are not safe, and you should leave these vehicles for safe shelter.

Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees, which includes but is not limited to having an Emergency Action Plan that addresses lightning safety protocol for outdoor workers, posting information about lightning safety at outdoor worksites and offering safety training to their employees. Workplace Safety & Health Co. is here to help you keep your employees safer in thunderstorms and in all kinds of weather. 

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