Survive, Thrive and Succeed Together:
Safety in the Workplace
Do you or people you know enjoy watching television shows about human survival skills? Some of the shows include participants that demonstrate physical skills on an island, proving that they might be stronger and better survivors than their competitors. In some cases, the participants can vote off weak members or eliminate fellow team members they consider a threat.
News shows broadcast segments of how to quickly react and survive in the case of a of tornado, flood, or snowstorm. They show you how to escape from your vehicle should it be washed away in river or fast flowing water. They describe the best methods for being located and rescued.
You may be unhappy, but understand, when the soccer match is delayed, the baseball game is postponed or when everyone is told to get out of the pool because of an imminent thunderstorm. Officials, referees and lifeguards will warn you about a lightning strike from miles away. The National Weather Service cautions that “lightning often strikes more than three miles away from the center of the thunderstorm cloud.”
But how often do you consider your survival in your workplace? Perhaps you are one of those that believe that a workforce fatality would never happen to you. Do you believe that only those who are inexperienced or ignore common sense safety rules do not survive? Are the reckless the only ones who do not get to go home to their families at the end of their shift?
Sadly, even with the best work of televised survival shows, safety staffs and committees; and despite the many regulations, posters, warning signs and personal protective equipment – many workers in North America do not survive the day at work.
The annual and most recent report from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC) tell us that in 2017, “951 workplace fatalities were recorded in Canada, an increase of 46 from the previous year. Among these deaths were 23 young workers aged 15 to 24.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2017 also reported that although fatalities were “down slightly” from the previous year, 5,147 workers died at work in the United States in 2017.
Take a moment to consider these numbers: Nearly 1,000 workers in Canada and more than 5,000 workers in the U.S. – not 500 or 50 or 5, any number of which would be too many. Each day, seven days a week, more than14 U.S. coworkers do not survive their day at work.
These are not people working in a substandard facility in some remote region of the world. These are victims that could have been one of your coworkers, an employee in the building next door or the building down the street. These are not inexperienced people or people that may have ignored common sense safety rules. They are people just like you. People who may have done nothing wrong themselves.
It is truly sad when someone does not survive the workday, but it can be even more difficult for those who survive and no longer thrive. Workplace accidents and injuries can cause lifelong pain, disfiguration and suffering for those that do survive.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that in 2017, the same year as the fatality census, 2.8 out of every 100 full-time workers were involved in injury incidents. Private industry lost over 89 days of work per every 10,000 full time workers. In Canada in 2017, there were 33,893 lost time claims recorded due to injuries in manufacturing – ranking second among 20 industries.
In each injury case the worker survived, but chances are they no longer thrive. Along with potential emergency surgeries and many hours in physical therapy, there are also are the emotional costs to worried families and friends. In some cases, the injured worker will never return to productive work, normal mobility or independence.
To stay among those that survive and thrive at the end of each workday, you must be constantly watching for situations that could lead to an accident or injury. You, no one else, are responsible for your safety and for the safety of those around you. You must warn coworkers, supervisors and management about any unsafe situation before an accident happens. Keep an eye on new employees and visitors who may not recognize dangers.
You must follow all safety rules and regulations and speak openly and freely to anyone who does not do the same. Never report to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Watch out for workers that might be intoxicated and follow your company policy for reporting. You must always remember that any unsafe practice could have a deadly or long-lasting effect on your life and everyone you know.
Always keep in mind that you must wear the correct required personal protective equipment. You must be sure that everyone around you does the same. If your coworkers are not wearing the required gear, consider them to be the same as the reality show participants that head off into the jungle with no cloths and nothing more than a shoulder bag.
Co-workers without proper safety gear should be considered “naked and afraid.” Help them gear up properly and safely so no one needs to be afraid. You cannot vote away or eliminate unsafe coworkers or eliminate that ones that may be a threat, but you can be on constant watch to ensure everyone survives, thrives and succeeds together.
Get involved with the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) Glass Safety Awareness Council to learn more about how to protect yourself and your fellow workers. Learn best practices to take back to your company and share what works best for you.
About the Author
Mike Burk is Chair of the IGMA Glass Safety Awareness Council. He has been the North America Technical Representative at Sparklite since 2017 and has worked in the technical and training areas of the insulating glass industry for over twenty-five years. Burk holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Learning and Development and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business.