Posts Tagged ‘injuries’

Highest injury rate POP quiz: construction, manufacturing, mining, or nursing homes?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Pop quiz:
Match the Injury Incident Rate per 100 Full Time Equivalents (#1 through #4) with the industry (A, B, C, D)
1. 8.6
2. 5.6
3. 4.8
4. 3.5
A. building construction
B. coal mines, underground workers
C. nursing home workers
D. tire manufacturing workers
Answers: 1-C, 2-B, 3-D, 4-A
Yes, you read that right. Nursing home workers are at higher risk of injury than underground coal miners, construction workers, and tire manufacturers. And the picture is pretty much the same when you talk about serious injuries that result in lost time. “The lost-time/ restricted duty injury case rate for nursing home workers is 5.6 per 100 FTEs, compared to 3.7, 3.3 and 1.7 for these same sub-industries, respectively.”
At The Pump Handle, Celeste Monforton posts about new data that reveals that nursing home workers face an extraordinarily high rate of on-the-job injuries.
Of the 16 million US workers employed in health care and social assistance, more than 3 million are employed in US nursing and residential care facilities. In comparison, Monforton notes that about 17.1 million people were employed in manufacturing and construction. OSHA focused approximately 78% of its inspections on these two industries, and less than 2% on healthcare workers. She notes that there are different standards or triggers to prompt inspections in these industries. “Manufacturing plants on the targeting list, for example, aren’t selected for a possible inspection unless their DART rate* is 7.0 per 100 FTEs or greater. Nursing homes in contrast, have to have a DART rate of 16 per 100 FTEs or greater to “make the cut” for a possible inspection.
*DART: days away from work, restricted-duty or transfer to a different job
NCCI study on safe lifting programs for long-term care facilities

Battlefield medicine: technologies that may yield benefits for injured workers

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Last week, our nation honored its veterans for service rendered to the country. Although belatedly, we join in offering thanks. One could make the case that our nation’s gratitude should be a 365-day-a-year tribute rather than largely confined to a single celebratory day. On returning home, many veterans face an enormous hurdle, the day-in-day-out battle of finding employment, a formidable challenge for any vet but made even more difficult in the current economy. Beyond an expression of appreciation, there are many good reasons why employers should hire vets. The U.S. Department of Labor has collaborated with Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS), and other federal agencies to offer a Step-by-Step Employer Toolkit for Hiring Veterans.

In addition to their military service, there is another debt that we owe to our vets, particularly those who have been wounded physically or psychologically. It is one of life’s great ironies that war, which is responsible for so much death and destruction, is also a catalyst for the advance of medicine and medical technologies.

Just as weapons become more sophisticated, so too do the medical technologies designed treat the wounds that these weapons exact. From wars in ancient times to the present, civilian medicine has been advanced by battlefield medicine, first practiced on wounded warriors.
Wired Magazine has been one of the ongoing sources we turn to get our fix about battlefield advances in medical technology. A recent article – Military’s Freakiest Medical Projects – is a fascinating case in point, highlighting advances in prosthetic limbs, skin grafts, burn repair, bone cement, suspended animation, and more. The article’s intro explains that “Some of the Pentagon’s extreme medical innovations have already debuted in the war zone. And with myriad applications outside of combat, these advances in military medicine mean that revolutionary changes for civilian care aren’t far behind.”
Another recent article – Exoskeletons, Robo Rats and Synthetic Skin: The Pentagon’s Cyborg Army – focuses on technologies that foster recovery, such as neurally controlled prosthetics, or that enhance performance, such as wearable exoskeletons that amplify amplify troop strength and endurance.

As exciting as these developments are, not all effective treatments rely on advanced technology – some are reassuringly “old-school.” A case in point is this heartwarming story about vets with PTSD who train service dogs as companions for vets in wheelchairs. The dogs do double duty, serving as therapy dogs for those with PTSD while they are being trained, and later as helper dogs for those confined in wheelchairs. You can learn more about this most excellent program at Paws for Purple Hearts.
And if you doubt the healing and restorative power of dogs, we leave you with this evidence: an incredible compilation of clips of dogs welcoming home soldiers. One warning: have a box of tissues nearby!

Lost Youth: the stories of four teens injured at work

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

In a few weeks, millions of teens will be joining the work force, many for the first time. For most, nothing out of the ordinary will occur, but for about 70, their jobs will be lethal. About every three minutes, a teen is injured on the job. Worksafe BC has compiled the true stories of four ordinary kids whose first jobs proved devastating. In this series of short, compelling video clips, each teen tells the story of their injury, how it happened, and how it has affected their lives. The teens’ parents also talk about things from their perspective. The clips are graphic, frightening, and real, and demonstrate just how quickly something can go wrong. They should be mandatory viewing for employers who hire teens, for teen workers, and for parents of working teens.
John’s story – how 16-year old John Higgins broke his back in a forklift accident.
Jennifer’s story – how 19-year old Jennifer Fourchalk lost three fingers, which were caught in dough-making equipment in a pizzeria.
Michael’s story – how 18-year old Michael Lovett lost a leg when sucked into machinery in a sawmill.
Nick’s story(raw language alert) – how 19-year old Nick Perry became paralyzed when crushed by lumber in a lumberyard.
Some of the common themes in the stories:

  • Enthusiasm. These kids badly wanted to please and impress bosses and co-workers and to do a good job. The teens didn’t want to ask for help or to appear unwilling to do what was asked of them – they wanted to be mature and good work contributors.
  • Inexperience. The teens seemed unaware of the power of equipment they were using and the potential for injuries. Jennifer didn’t realize how powerful the kitchen equipment was. Michael seemed unaware that he could refuse to engage in unsafe behaviors, like jumping off dangerous equipment. They appear to assume that dangers were just an inevitable condition of the work.
  • Lack of training. None of these teens had been properly trained in the equipment they were using nor had they received basic safety practices and procedures, such as lock out/tag out. All of these injuries might have been prevented had the workers been trained and had machine safeguards been in place. John actually emulated unsafe practices he had observed other workers doing.
  • Working alone. In most of these examples, the teens were not being supervised when the injuries occurred.
  • Regretful parents. Parents assumed employers would look out for their kids. Several parents expressed initial misgivings about the jobs their kids had taken. Many expressed regret that they hadn’t looked into the work conditions more.

Resources for keeping teen workers safe
Tips for teens: Stay safe on the job
Employers: 10 tips to keep teen workers safe
Tips for parents: How safe are your favorite kids on their new jobs?

The 41-hour smoke break and other elevator stories

Friday, April 18th, 2008

While working late one Friday night to meet a publication deadline, Nicholas White decided to take a smoke break. It lasted 41 hours.
White worked on the 43rd floor of the McGraw Hill Building in downtown Manhattan. His descent in the elevator on his way to the smoke break was uneventful, but on the trip back up, the elevator got stuck around the 13th floor. Despite ringing alarms and the fact that his frantic attempts to extricate himself were visible on security cameras, nobody noticed until Sunday, when he was finally released. You can watch a consolidated time lapse film of his ordeal as captured by the building’s security cameras.
The New Yorker article goes into some detail about White’s thoughts and actions during his entrapment, along with a great deal of detail on elevators – maybe more than you cared to know. The story of his confinement is pretty riveting, but the events after he was released are a story unto themselves. It’s understandable that White was traumatized. (You can discuss to what degree, as did the folks on Metafilter where we found this story – unfiltered language alert if your organization is strict about that.) Suffice it to say, 41 hours of solitary confinement and sensory deprivation while contemplating your potential – and increasingly likely – demise is probably against the Geneva convention rules for torture. People can survive for three days without water, but after that, things get tricky. So White most definitely had a stressful ordeal. One could make a case for PTSD.
White never returned to his job and is now unemployed – you can read the full details why in the article, but the short version is that he was again entrapped, this time by anger and entitlement. In retrospect, he recognizes that it was not the event itself that changed him but his reactions to it. There’s a lesson in his story that could probably be instructive to those who are helping people return to work after a physical injury. The psychological event of an injury can be as debilitating to recover from as the physical component. When trying to help people get well to and to resume their normal lives, the psychological trauma they have endured should not be overlooked.
Elevator tragedy: gruesome and horrifying death was not unique
In the same forum where we learned about White’s ordeal, we found a disturbing elevator-related article with a much worse outcome. In 2003, Dr. Hitoshi Nikaidoh stepped into an elevator at St. Joseph Hospital in Houston and wound up losing his life. If you read the article in full, it may make a lasting change in your future elevator behavior. If you were previously inclined to insert a shoulder or a leg in the door to catch the elevator, it’s likely you may think twice about that going forward.
Elevators are safe for most people most of the time, so we take them for granted. But when things go wrong, they can really go wrong. And they go wrong more frequently than you might think. According to Houston Press reporter Wendy Grossman, there were 256 elevator- and escalator-related accidents in Texas in the year before the article was written. Nationally, elevators and escalators kill about 30 people a year and seriously injure 17,100. Grossman notes, “There are no federal mandates on elevator safety. The U.S. government doesn’t require elevators to be inspected, or that elevator inspectors know what they’re doing. It’s up to individual states.”

Controversial Canadian workplace safety ads unveiled

Monday, November 26th, 2007

If you are feeling a tad lethargic after your holiday weekend, we are warning you that you may find the contents of today’s posting a bit of a wake-up call. Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has unveiled a series of graphic public service announcements designed to highlight worker safety. The theme – There Really are No Accidents – is intended to send the message that work injuries and fatalities are unacceptable and preventable. The campaign includes television and radio commercials, print ads, transit shelter and outdoor ads, web-based ads and a Prevent It website. In addition to running in English and French, the print and TV ads will run in Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, Portuguese, Punjabi and Spanish.

Take a look at the spots, but please be warned, these are graphic video clips:
Sous Chef suffers kitchen burns
Retail worker falls from ladder
Forklift driver dies in an accident

This approach is markedly different from anything that we seem to have here in the U.S. These work safety ads are startling, both in the shocking and gruesome nature of their content and in the fact that they are run on public television. Other than an occasional reference to workplace safety in an insurance spot, we can’t recall ever having seen TV ads devoted to worker safety. And despite pervasive graphic violence in films and on TV, it’s hard to imagine spots like these being run on network or cable TV in the U.S. Another remarkable thing in comparing Ontario’s approach to ours is in the variety of languages that the print and broadcast ads are employing to get the work safety message out.

Does shock value work? It would certainly seem to be effective in drawing awareness to an issue, although it’s hard to measure if heightened awareness translates into better on-the-job safety. Ontario has been running graphic ads for a number of years now, and last year, there were 101 work fatalities in a population of some 12 million people. That’s roughly comparable to the population of Pennsylvania, where there were 240 workplace fatalities last year or to Illinois, where there were 207 work-related fatalities. Alabama had about the same number of work fatalities (100) for a population of about 4.5 million. Maybe we could indeed use a few PSAs here. (For state fatality stats, see BLS report on fatal work injuries in 2006).

What do you think – effective or no? We’d be interested in hearing of any other public awareness campaigns for workplace safety – perhaps there are some sate-sponsored efforts. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.