simple things can save lives

I wear a few different hats at work, and one of those hats involves workplace safety. I recently took over my department’s seat on an organization-wide safety committee. I haven’t been really good about attending the meetings yet, but I am concerned about the things we can do to make our workplace (and the rest of our lives) safer.

I had a chance recently to attend a workshop in Rochester called Southeast Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths. This is part of a statewide effort in Minnesota to address traffic safety across all the people and agencies who can have an impact. The focus areas are Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Emergency Medical Services.

I was really surprised by some statistics that came up during the workshop and were pointed out by some of the speakers. I won’t put them all here, but a great place to start are the Minnesota Safety Belt Coalition and Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety sites.

If you take the statistics from the counties in southeast Minnesota from 1998 to 2003, there is some definite patterns to it:
# There are an average of 8,900 crashes per year
# About 6,230 are property damage crashes with no injuries
# About 2,670 crashes involve injuries, and
# On average, 60-70 people die in crashes each year

(just in SE MN!)

The people who die in those crashes are statistically likely to be males, aged 15 to 29 who are not wearing a seat belt.

So, Ted, what the heck does that information have to do with workplace safety?

First of all, motor vehicle crashes are nationally the largest single cause of workplace death, amounting to about 22% of those killed at work. The homicides we hear about on the news account for about 13%. So driving at work can be a pretty high risk activity.

Secondly, we do our coworkers a disservice when we stop caring about their well being the moment the whistle blows at the end of the day. A lot of bad things happen to employees and their families off the job that directly affect the workplace. Most injuries that cause people to miss work occur away from the jobsite, including the commute to and from work each day. Those injuries cause absenteeism, lower productivity and increased health insurance costs.

What can we do? There are simple solutions that you can do as an individual and some that take a few more folks.

You can choose to wear your seat belt. Whether you drive at work or not, most of us drive to get there and back home at night. And if we don’t drive to and from work, we probably drive somewhere else (I like the Dairy Queen).

You can encourage others to wear their seat belts or restraints. My parents were always “encouraging” me and my sisters to wear our seat belts in the car. My daughter will get the same treatment.

You can take a look at the information yourself and decide what else you can do. People who want to be part of the movement to make a primary seat belt law in Minnesota should consider the MN Safety Belt Coalition. If you are absolutely opposed to primary seat belt law, there is information there you should take a look at before you try to intelligently argue your point.

I will probably talk more about this in the future because it seems like a lot of people are dying every year and nobody hears about it. Or worse, they hear about it and dismiss it as acceptable.

Buckle up. Turn off the cellphone. Look around you. And SLOW DOWN! (Speed is also a significant factor in vehicle crashes, both in terms of cause and in terms of influencing severity…another topic for later)