By: Joyce Famakinwa, Business Insurance, September 2017

Protecting workers by preventing serious injuries and fatalities while improving performance is a key issue for employers, according to experts speaking at the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo on Monday in Indianapolis.

In 2010, workplace safety consultant firm DEKRA Insight, based in Oxnard, California, launched a research project focused on understanding the causes of and ways to prevent fatalities.

“Buried inside that trend of fatalities not improving as much as they should are two other trends that are very disturbing. One is around fatalities related to motor vehicle incidents over the road. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) data shows us that 26% of all workplace fatalities are connected to motor vehicle incidents. The second disturbing trend is around contractor safety, (Bureau of Labor Statistics) data shows us the number of contractor fatalities has increased every year since 2011,” said Donald K. Martin, Jacksonville, Florida-based senior vice president at DEKRA Insight.

There are many events that take place on the work site that have the potential to lead to serious injuries and fatalities, experts say. In 71% of fatal accidents, DEKRA Insight found either a breakdown in a lifesaving safety rule or a breakdown in a pre-risk task assessment. The most beneficial part of the accident report process is the accident case narrative because it provides a description of exactly how the accident happened, said Mr. Martin.

Experts say looking at the impact of severe life altering injuries, such as multiple fractures, amputations and fatalities, rather than statistics can make a difference in outcomes.

“It really changed our emphasis to saving lives versus counting metrics,” said Laura Ambrose, New Orleans-based global director of environmental health and safety operations at The Dow Chemical Co. Ms. Ambrose says that at Dow, there is a focus on “potential versus actual.” Employers should think about would could happen along with what already happened, she said.

Employers need to create their own safety journey and that worker safety is a shared responsibility, experts say.

“It’s that mindset that you have to engage all of the people in the organization. It’s not just the people from the safety department’s responsibility. It is everybody’s responsibility,” said Peter Waite, Greenfield, Indiana-based senior director of global health, safety and environment at Eli Lilly and Co.

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