A silver lining in the unemployment cloud: Workplace fatalities have declined during the recession.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace fatalities were down 17 percent in 2009, compared with 2008. The 4,340 fatal workplace injuries reported for ’09 is the lowest number on record since the BLS started keeping track in 1992.
While a large part of that has to do with the fact that there were fewer jobs in general, the BLS reported that injuries per 100,000 workers declined from 3.7 in 2008, to 3.3 in 2009. Bloomberg also reported that, according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, workplace injuries have been on the decline for 10 years, reflecting an overall trend toward safer workplaces.
Transportation accidents, which account for almost two-fifths of fatal workplace injuries declined by 21 percent in 2009; an overall loss of jobs in the construction industry played a large part in the decline.
“A single worker hurt or killed on the job is one too many,” Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “While a decrease in the number of fatal work injuries is encouraging, we cannot and will not relent from our continued strong enforcement of workplace safety laws. As the economy regains strength and more people re-enter the workforce, the Department of Labor will remain vigilant to ensure America’s workers are kept safe while they earn a paycheck.”
Here are a few tips for staying safe on the job:
1. Pay attention to overtime hours: Staying late is bad for your health in more ways than one. One recent study reported that employees who work more than 10 hours per day are 60 percent more likely to develop heart disease than people who work fewer hours. A long day also makes your commute more hazardous. You’re more likely to get in an accident when you’re tired — in fact, research has shown that drowsy drivers are seven times more likely to crash than drivers who are well-rested.
2. Talk to your boss if your job is taking a physical toll on you: Jobs that are physically demanding may start to wear on workers after a while, especially those that involve repetitive motion, awkward body positioning or heavy lifting. Companies are required by law to provide workers with a safe work environment, and your boss can help you figure out a safer or more comfortable situation.
3. The same goes for workplace injuries: If you are injured on the job, speak up. Your company will either have to provide you with time off to recuperate or with a new set of job duties that will not exacerbate the injury.
4. Take breaks: If your job is physically demanding or requires you to operate heavy machinery, working while tired can pose safety risks. Like driving while tired, doing physically demanding work, such as construction, maintenance or manufacturing, can be seriously dangerous to tired workers. Take short, frequent breaks to keep your attention levels high and your drowsiness levels low.
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