Two million poisonings are reported to poison centers across the United States each year, and since 1961, the third week in March has been dedicated as National Poison Prevention Week to create awareness. Even though childhood fatalities from accidental poisoning has dropped significantly through the years, the rate of fatalities due to accidental poisoning in all age groups has more than tripled in the past 50 years. Accidental poisoning is now the most common cause of accidental death in America.
Much of the increase is attributed to fatal drug overdoses, both legal and illegal drugs. Our blog, The Opioid Crisis and the Workplace, discussed how this crisis is affecting the workplace. Even though the number of what one would classify as a workplace fatality to poisoning is relatively small when compared to unintentional drug overdoses, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than 50,000 employees die each year from long-term occupational hazards such as chemical exposures.
There are four different categories of occupational hazards classified as poisons:
1. Agricultural and industrial chemicals
2. Drugs and healthcare products
4. Biological poisons
When thinking about these four possible poisons, there are few industries that could completely escape exposing their employees to them, so keep these tips in mind to protect your employees:
• Ventilate work areas where hazardous substances are used and stored
• Enclose hazardous operations to prevent dangerous vapors from escaping into areas where employees are, so they do not breath in such vapors
• Restrict entry into hazardous areas to only those who are authorized, trained and properly equipped to do so
• Require the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) specifically designed to protect one against the specific hazardous substance employees are working with
• Use proper decontamination procedures to prevent exposures to poisons and the risk of spreading contamination throughout the workplace…or even into your employees’ homes, affecting their families
Each year, OSHA comes out with their Top 10 Violations, and both Hazard Communication and Respiratory Protection are consistently on this list, so even though National Poison Prevention Week is touted as March 17-23 this year, it’s something we all should be doing every week. Need help or guidance? Workplace Safety and Health, Inc. is ready – call us at 317-253-9737.