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October 21, 2015 | by Steve Lawrence

Never Lose Sight of What is Most Important

A crash course in saving lives

Deborah Hersman has likely never visited your business, and yet, she can tell you all about the factory floor peril your workers face each day, and how to help ensure they go home at the end of shift all in one piece.

“Never forget in all you do, who and what is most important,” the CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC) told the MSCI annual safety conference in October. “People matter. Think about what you would say to a wife, or a family if one of your workers was injured or killed on the job.”

The new and extensive partnership that MSCI has forged with the NSC is designed so that the men and women who run our member companies never have to have that conversation when someone is hurt, or worse, on the job.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were slightly more than 4,600 workplace deaths in 2014, a notable decline from the twenty-year peak of 6,600 in 1994. But that 2014 number was also the highest in the last three years. So what’s going on?

The abuse of prescription painkillers and cell phones are major factors. “There has been a 60% increase in prescriptions for opioid pain killers since 1990,” Hersman said. “And their abuse is now a leading cause of workplace accidents.” If your company does not already include painkillers in its drug screening tests, it must start. “When we started doing that at the National Safety Council,” Hersman said, “we discovered it cost nothing extra to include those drugs in our screening blood panels.” MSCI members will have access to proprietary NSC data—“stuff you won’t find on Google,” she explained—“so we can tell you, for instance which pain killers are most commonly abused in your area.”

“Thirty percent of the population has problems sleeping,” she said. Most of us need seven to nine hours. Two hours less than normal can be the equivalent of a .05 blood alcohol level.

Next up? “If you do not already, you must have a strictly enforced policy on the use of cell phones in your workplace,” she cautioned. “Twenty-five percent of accidents are because of distractions and that is primarily cell phones.” We know that workplace safety challenges are constantly changing, Hersman said. “Consider that by 2020 about half of your workforce will be millennials,” she said. “A generation that lives on their cell phones.”

Those organizations that can quickly identify these trends and adapt safety programs accordingly are most likely to survive. That critical adaptability also depends on every business having a fully developed incident investigation program, “to get the full story on every accident every time.” Don’t ever assume you know the cause of an accident before investigating, she said. “Always ask ‘why’ at least five times.”

And that incident investigation should always look at the amount of sleep the participants have had in the 24 hours before an accident. “Thirty percent of the population has problems sleeping,” she said. “This needs to go hand in hand with alcohol and drug programs because sleep deprivation can be a primary cause of poor reaction time and poor judgment. Most of us need seven to nine hours. Two hours less than normal can be the equivalent of a .05 blood alcohol level.”

MSCI’s partnership with the National Safety Council, Hersman explained, offers a rich array of new tools to help manage safety issues. “You can now tap into our expertise and research, our local training, and our programs to help you develop reliable metrics for self-assessment.” The NSC offers more than 80 useful webinars and, she said, “You can call our library any time, where we actually have three live human beings you can talk to.” Call the library at (630) 775-2199.

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