Accidents are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, but the majority of accidents do not occur at work. Through the efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace fatalities in the electrical construction trades have decreased from 18.3 per 100,000 full-time workers in 1995 to 9 in the year 2000.
Electrician nonfatal injuries went from 522 per 10,000 full-time workers in 1994 to 246 in 2001. Accidents at home, on the other hand, account for 70 percent of all deaths and 55 percent of all injuries to employees. One study showed that absenteeism due to off-the-job injuries outnumbered days lost due to work injury by 20 to 1. Therefore, to thoroughly address employee safety, employers should offer off-the-job safety recommendations.
The sources of off-the-job accidents seem limitless. They include objects used for transportation, such as cars, bicycles, buses, motorcycles, trains, boats and planes. Accidents involving pedestrians could also be placed in this group.
Other accidents are associated with occurrences, activities or items found in and around the home. They include firearms, machinery, tools, fire, slips, animals or insects, and miscellaneous household objects. In 2002, the leading causes of accidents in the home were poisoning, falls, suffocation by ingested object and fire.
Employees should be encouraged to practice defensive driving and avoid speeding. Refer employees to local resources for defensive driving classes or ask these agencies to conduct training at your workplace. Remind employees of the importance of wearing their seat belts.
Promote safety with employees using other modes of transportation. Employees who ride motorcycles or bicycles should wear helmets. Those who own boats should enroll in a safe boating course and ensure all passengers have a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
Employees need to become familiar with the poisons around the home. Educate them about possible antidotes for common poisons. Vomiting should not be induced unless instructed to do so by a medical professional or similarly trained individual. Encourage employees to keep a list of emergency phone numbers, such as the National Poison Control Center (800.522.4611).
Household cleaners, disinfectants, insecticides, drain openers and medicines should remain in their original labeled containers. Remind employees to read the label before taking any medicine and properly dispose of outdated medicines.
Encourage proper hygiene practices from work to the home. Washing and drying hands thoroughly can prevent the spread of germs. The same is true for cleaning countertops and other food preparation areas. Bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella can be dangerous.
Ask employees to follow the same practices at home that are required at work. Use caution around ladders and step stools. Spills should be cleaned up, adequate lighting maintained, handrails used and clutter cleared from stairs. Small rugs should have nonskid backing and should not be used at the top of stairs.
Anti-slip strips should be installed in tubs and showers. Tacking down small rugs and runners can prevent tripping and slipping accidents. Cords should be placed out of the flow of traffic. Electrical cords should never be placed beneath furniture, rugs or carpeting. Heat can build up in the cord causing fires.
OSHA rules for flammables will protect employees at home. Share the workplace fire evacuation plan’s purpose with employees as an example. When providing required fire prevention training at work, reference the use of these practices at home. They include keeping flammables away from ignition sources, having smoke detectors or other fire alarms systems in place and ensuring the availability of a fire extinguisher. Encourage employees to inspect their homes for fire hazards. Inspections are done at the job site; the same precautions should be taken at home.
Preventing accidents at home benefits employer and employee. Preparing for emergencies is critical. Ask employees if they are prepared. Help them to identify hazards in their personal lives and locate local emergency resources when needed. EC
O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or firstname.lastname@example.org.