Since 1962, the National Poison Prevention Week has been observed annually the third week in March to educate Americans of all ages about poisoning risks. Even though the aim (and most marketing) doesn’t necessarily focus on workplace safety, poison prevention is something that should be discussed and steps taken in the workplace to help reduce its too frequent occurrences.
We are exposed to poisons and potentially hazardous chemicals every day, sometimes without even realizing any danger exists. The rate of fatalities due to accidental poisoning in all age groups has more than tripled in the past 55 years. Yes, a huge majority of that is due to fatal drug overdose (both legal and illegal drugs), but accidental poisoning is now the most common cause of accidental death in America.
When thinking about workplace safety and poison prevention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates more than 50K employees die each year from long-term occupational hazards. There are four different categories of occupational hazards classified as poison:
1) agricultural and industrial chemicals
2) drugs and healthcare products
4) biological poisons
Commonly found workplace environmental hazards include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Mercury poisoning
- Fumes from lead, iron oxide or zinc oxide
- Manganese fumes
- Exposure to ammonia
- Dust from silica and crystalline quartz
While it is impossible to mitigate every possible workplace poisoning, there are various measures you can take to prevent injuries and fatalities:
- Comply with OSHA’s Health and Safety regulations (HazCom)
- Request a health & safety audit to check for chemical exposure (air quality)
- Have appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace
- Educate your employees on identifying the symptoms of poisoning and know what steps to take, including calling emergency help quickly when required
Taking steps to keep your employees safe from workplace hazards, including poisoning, should be an ongoing priority. Any questions or concerns on how to do this, we are here to help at Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. – 317-253-9737.