What causes injuries on the job, and how can they be prevented? Employers usually say that injuries are caused by “human error.” They say that workers wouldn’t get hurt if only they were more careful on the job.
But that employer argument misses the point.
Since we all are human and cannot avoid mistakes, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide safeguards so that mistakes don’t become injuries.
A simple example involves machine guarding. Years ago, employers were not required to put guards on moving machine parts. When workers lost their concentration and got caught in a machine, management said they were hurt because they were “careless.” Now, guards are required and workers get caught in moving machine parts much less often. They’re still careless from time to time–we all are–but the safety protection keeps them from getting hurt.
The following is a checklist for identifying possible changes needed to prevent injuries on your job. The same list can be used after an accident to show management how the real causes can be corrected.
- Are workers provided with too little time to do the job?
- Are tools or equipment inadequate or poorly maintained?
- Is there poor supervision?
- Is there enough help?
- Does the job involve an unsafe number of tasks?
- Does it require physical positions or a degree of effort that will contribute to accidents and injuries?
- Are stressful conditions that can contribute to accidents allowed to go unchecked? For example, too much noise? Vibration? Heat? Cold? Poor lighting? Exposure to chemicals that would cause headaches, dizziness, skin problems, or other irritation?
- Are staffing or procedures inadequate to prevent conditions in which workers will trip or slip on something, be hit by a falling object, get caught between two objects, come in contact with electricity, etc.?
- Do poorly designed or overly stressful work schedules make workers tired and less alert? Does management fail to provide all necessary protective clothing and equipment, and keep it in good working order?
- Is training inadequate or too infrequent?
Management works hard trying to make us beleive that every accident and injury is our own fault. Think about the list above and how it applies to your job conditions. Old trucks, extreme heat and cold, falling objects caused by bad loads, the list begins to build when you take a good look at it.
Always get the Union involved when you have an accident or injury before you buy into management’s line that everything is your fault. The Union can help you identify what is management’s repsonsibility and what is yours.
Thanks to IBEW Local 1613