Celebrate National Safety Month
Prioritizing workplace safety in June and all year long.
Prioritizing workplace safety in June and all year long.
Dawn Castillo, MPH, is director of the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.
Kim Shambrook is vice president, workplace practice (Interim) at the National Safety Council.
Lauralynn Taylor McKernan, ScD CIH, is director of the NIOSH Division of Field Studies and Engineering.
Each year, the National Safety Council designates June as National Safety Month. As we navigate how to live and work safely during this time, CDC has provided resources and information for all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. NSC has also shared information related to COVID-19. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is partnering with NSC on the nationwide SAFER Task Force to help employers prioritize safety as they return employees to traditional work environments and schedules as part of a safe reopening strategy.
During this year’s National Safety Month, we are focusing on the following key safety topics affecting many of our lives at this time: mental health, ergonomics, building a culture of safety, and driving.
NIOSH: Health effects of stress lead to higher absenteeism, turnover and loss of productivity for organizations, as well as higher healthcare expenditures. The long-term impact of stress on workers also leads to chronic health conditions. Fortunately, workplace interventions can help working adults reduce stress which, in turn, may reduce the impact of chronic health conditions. There are many different strategies organizations can begin implementing to reduce stressful working conditions and promote better mental health in the workplace. The NORA Healthy Work Design and Well-being Cross-sector Council works with partners to improve the design of work, work environments and management practices to advance worker safety, health and well-being. Additionally, the NIOSH Total Worker Health® program integrates workplace interventions that protect safety and health with activities that advance the overall well-being of workers. Find more strategies on the blog Exploring Individual and Organizational Stress-reducing Interventions across Industries.
Information about job strain, long work hours and suicidal thoughts in workers is also available on the NIOSH Science Blog. This blog includes a list of related resources to help employers promote improved mental health and implement suicide prevention programs.
Additionally, NIOSH utilizes Total Worker Health® principles to address the effects of worker use and misuse of opioids which are not isolated to work or home environments, and which may be precipitated by injuries that happen in the workplace. The NIOSH Webpage on Opioids in the Workplace provides information on how work can be associated with opioid use and steps employers can take to help prevent misuse and aid workers in recovery.
NSC: Part of being safe is taking care of the physical and mental wellbeing of your workers. During increased times of stress, it can be more difficult to handle day-to-day activities. It is also important to note that increased levels of stress, uncertainty and anxiety can also potentially lead to an increase in substance misuse or substance use disorders, or an increased risk for relapse for those already in treatment or recovery.
The National Safety Council provides support to help employers navigate their role in addressing mental health, which includes working with benefits providers. NSC also provides an Opioids at Work: Employer Toolkit and Substance Use Cost Calculator for Employers to help equip them with the tools and resources they need to assist workers with substance use disorders.
NIOSH: The NIOSH Musculoskeletal Health Cross-Sector Program’s mission is to reduce the burden of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) through a focused program of research and prevention that protects workers from MSDs, helps management mitigate related risks and liabilities, and helps practitioners improve the efficacy of workplace interventions.
MSDs are most often caused by overexertion and can affect a worker’s ability to perform many job-related tasks, such as lifting, pulling, pushing, maintaining a natural posture, withstanding cold temperature, and withstanding torque reactions and vibrations from machinery and tools. Members of the program recognize the growing need for affordable interventions that promote musculoskeletal health in the workplace. The program collaborates with the NIOSH Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS) on identifying industries with high risk for musculoskeletal disorders and determining effective interventions for reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. In addition, the Program collaborates with the NIOSH Center for Occupational Robotics Research (CORR) and the NIOSH Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies (NCDRST) on providing assistance in making industry standards and guidelines on emerging technologies in the application of ergonomic risk assessments and interventions. High-risk industries for MSDs include agriculture, forestry and fishing; transportation and warehousing; construction; healthcare and social assistance; manufacturing; mining; services; and wholesale and retail trade.
NSC: No matter where your workers are – whether on a construction site, manufacturing floor or working remotely from their homes – every worksite should be set up to avoid ergonomic issues. Encourage your workers to report any sign of pain right away to their supervisor, safety representative or human resources team.
Stretching can be a helpful way to prevent or lessen ergonomic issues. Regular stretching gives the body the necessary breaks it needs throughout the day. Consider group stretch breaks with your co-workers or team, especially during extended projects or meetings, even when working remote. Small changes can help keep bodies working at their best for a long time to come.
NIOSH: The NIOSH Total Worker Health (TWH) program explores how work can be better designed to both protect workers from harm on the job and enhance their overall health and wellbeing. The TWH approach always prioritizes a hazard-free work environment that protects the safety and health of all workers. Eliminating or reducing recognized hazards in the workplace first, including those related to the organization of work itself, is the most effective means of prevention and thus is foundational to all TWH principles. The Centers of Excellence for TWH and TWH Affiliates develop and evaluate interventions to improve safety, health and wellbeing, creating resources for employers and organizations to apply the TWH approach. For more information and examples of case studies, see Total Worker Health® A New Model for Well-being at Work. The National Safety Council is proud to be a NIOSH Total Worker Health Affiliate.
NSC: Creating an atmosphere where your workers know your organization puts safety first is incredibly important and isn’t built overnight. It takes leadership support and employee engagement to reach this understanding. It also requires continuous efforts toward risk reduction, establishing safety processes and procedures for your workplace’s unique risks, and having a system in place to measure your performance.
Encourage all of your workers to take the SafeAtWork pledge to showcase their commitment to keeping each other safe at work, including identifying hazards early.
NIOSH: Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. And, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety (CMVS) provides research-based guidance to prevent motor vehicle crashes for truck drivers, drivers in other high-risk jobs (EMS, law enforcement, oil and gas extraction), and light-vehicle drivers (real estate, sales, health care).
With many workers such as commercial truck drivers and delivery workers driving longer hours in recent months, it is important to take steps to prevent motor vehicle crashes caused by fatigued driving. No amount of experience, motivation or professionalism can overcome the body’s biological need to sleep.
Also remember that any non-driving activity is a potential distraction and increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash. Research shows that hands-free phones are just as distracting as hand-held. When driving becomes secondary, drivers pay less attention to possible dangers on the road. Phone, video- or web-conferencing should not be done when driving. Employers can apply journey management practices to minimize unnecessary trips, distances driven and the risks associated with necessary trips.
NSC: Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of workplace death, and pedestrian fatalities are on the rise. Impairment behind the wheel can take many forms, whether it is being drunk, drugged, drowsy or distracted. Explain to your workers that if they feel different they are likely impaired. We all share the roadways, including vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Staying safe means constantly scanning the roads for potential hazards, and that requires us to be at our best.
Let’s celebrate safety this June and draw attention to prevention efforts we can take throughout the entire year, from the workplace to anyplace. This month, take a moment to think about how you can put safety into practice in your daily life. Demonstrate your commitment by taking photos wearing “safety green” and posting them to social media June 20-26, using the hashtags #GoGreenforSafety and #NSM. Download and share a variety of free safety materials from NSC, including a poster, tip sheets, articles and more; and visit the NIOSH website to stay safe all year long.
This post first appeared on the NIOSH Science blog. Total Worker Health® is a registered trademark of the US Department of Health and Human Services.