Directorate of Assessments and Prevention
Workplace Safety Division
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
When building and developing an occupational safety and health program, many organizations focus on accidents that might not be as common as you would expect. According to the National Safety Council, the chances of a fatality occurring from commonly perceived dangers is relatively low. For example, there is only a 1 in 50 million chance of dying from a snake bite, a 1 in 66,335 of dying in a cataclysmic storm and only a 1 in 161,856 chance of dying from a lightning strike.
According to OSHA, in 2014, there were about 1,350 fatalities in the workplace — not to mention how many employees suffered fatalities off the worksite — many of which may have been preventable. A comprehensive safety program that focuses not only on workplace safety, but general safety as well, may prove to increase awareness of actual risk for employees versus perceived risk, both on the job and at home.
For example, there is a 1 in 6,905 chance of death due to unintentional firearms discharge, a 1 in 1,188 risk of drowning, a 1 in 985 chance of dying from a motorcycle accident and a 1 in 127 chance of dying from a fall. Yes, people should take precautions to prevent dying from a lightning strike or snake bite, but organizations may find focusing on more common accidents improves the safety climate in the organization and fuels cultural change at work and home.
Since the implementation of occupational safety regulations in 1933, work-related deaths have decreased by 90 percent. Many organizations are starting to see the benefits of incorporating a comprehensive safety program. Some, however, still have reservations based on expense, the idea of a decrease in productivity due to training and lack of effective resources. Research suggests that the development and focus on a robust safety program by organization leaders has proven to have positive results on building a safety climate and producing culture change within organizations.
In an evaluation of 709 studies on safety training programs, organizations that incorporated “highly engaging” safety program training methods driven by administrative support did produce an acute increase in expense and were more time consuming. However, due to the effectiveness of this training, these same programs proved to be less costly and more effective in ensuring long-term employee safety.
In a 2007 ScienceDirect article, one study suggests voluntary Occupational Health and Safety Management System training interventions decreased injury rates and disability-related costs. Training programs also had intermediate effects such as a better safety climate, increased hazard reporting and more organizational action taken on OHS issues. In the same respect, mandatory OHSMS improved the employee’s perceptions of the physical work environment, decreased lost-time injury rates and increased work productivity.
Therefore, to create a positive safety climate within an organization that not only increases production and decreases cost, but also helps ensure the safety and health of the workforce, the administration should develop a mandatory comprehensive safety program. By focusing on workplace safety, as well as general safety of the individual, the likelihood of decreasing fatal accidents in and out of the workplace will promote culture change for the organization and its employees.