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Workplace Accident Prevention Programs Inadequate, Says Study

A study from Texas A&M University says that companies are not doing enough to prevent workplace accidents. The study examined four years’ worth of data from a multinational chemical company with 42 worksites in 12 countries, including more than 14,000 workplace accident reports. The researchers found that the safety reviews these companies use to determine workplace accident prevention procedures should be conducted on a monthly or quarterly basis, rather than the typical annual safety review.

Workplace Accidents and “Safety Climate”

Texas A&M psychology professor Mindy Bergman, one of the study’s authors, stated that most companies are not putting forth sufficient effort to reduce or prevent workplace accidents. Dr. Bergman’s study examined the effectiveness of a company’s workplace safety programs and its “safety climate.” The study found that the average safety programs encounter conditions that make them obsolete after three months. Also, when a workplace accident does occur, the safety climate often deteriorates across the company.

Workplace Accidents And “Unsafe Incidents”

In her study, Dr. Bergman cites “unsafe incidents” rather than “workplace accidents.” She told reporters that her choice of language is intentional. She cited that the phrase “workplace accident” implies that an incident in which a worker is injured is “just bad luck.” However, she stated that “most unsafe incidents are not like that.” She believes that describing workplace accidents as “unsafe incidents” “keeps us on the path to prevention”, both for workers engaged in dangerous jobs and for the managers in charge of planning workplace safety assessments.

Workplace Accident Assessments Need Not Be Expensive

Dr. Bergman’s study also points out that measures needed to prevent workplace accidents need not be as costly as companies may believe. She stressed that frequent safety climate assessments would not only prevent workplace accidents, but that they could save the companies that enact them money in lost productivity, insurance costs, and medical expenses. Dr. Bergman recommended quarterly safety climate assessments “at the minimum…better would be monthly.”

Most Fatal Workplace Accidents Are Preventable

A 2013 report from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health showed that more than 4,600 workers died in workplace accidents in 2011. Tom O’Connor, the NCOSH executive director, told reporters that most of these workplace accident fatalities were preventable. He mentioned that the recent energy boom, including fracking activities, were among the leading causes of avoidable workplace accidents. He cited the “intense pressure for production” in the energy sectors “that often leads to unsafe working conditions.”

Sources: Texas A&M Today:
Wyoming News

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