In 2014, the latest year for which full statistics are available, 148 people died and more than 150,000 people were injured in Georgia workplace accidents. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these workplace accidents occurred across many different industries, including construction, manufacturing, retail, transportation, finance, professional and business services, education and health services, art, entertainment and recreation, accommodation and food services, and others. The fatalities were devastating and many of the injuries resulted in physical pain, missed time from work, and stress for injured employees.
Tips for Avoiding Workplace Accidents
It is easier to prevent a workplace accident than to recover from a workplace injury, and there are steps that employers and employees can and should take to make individual worksites safer. Specifically:
- Watch for hazards and avoid them. Be on the lookout for anything that looks dangerous on your job site or in your office, and take appropriate steps to protect yourself from getting hurt.
- Report hazards. Report any dangerous conditions that you see to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible, so that your employer may correct the dangerous situation before anyone is hurt.
- Comply with all safety rules. Many employers have safety rules. A welder, for example, may be required to wear safety goggles on the job. This may be communicated via training, by an employee handbook, and by reminders from supervisors. A welder may suffer an eye injury if he does not wear safety goggles while performing his job duties. A worker who fails to follow workplace safety rules may not always be entitled to workers’ comp benefits. In our example, a welder who knew about the employer’s safety rule requiring safety goggles, and who disregarded that rule, may jeopardize his own recovery of workers’ compensation benefits.
Everyone benefits when employers and employees work together to prevent accident injuries. Employers keep their employees working and do not have to worry about workers’ compensation claims, and employees are spared the physical pain, financial hardship, and emotional trauma of a workplace injury.
What the Federal Government is Doing to Try to Prevent Workplace Accidents
In 1970, Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The purpose of OSHA is to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
OSHA furthers its mission by:
- Investigating complaints filed by employees. It is recommended that you inform your employer of any safety violations and give your employer a chance to fix those violations before contacting OSHA. You may file an OSHA complaint online or directly with one of the regional OSHA offices in Atlanta or Savannah.
- Investigating large workplace accidents. OSHA investigators may conduct on-site inspections without advance notice after a workplace fatality, after a large number of people become sick or hurt, or when there is information about an imminent danger.
- Fining employers for safety regulation violations. Employers who violate OSHA safety regulations may face fines from the federal government.
- Providing free consultations and trainings for employers. Georgia Tech is one of the four original OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, and it currently offers more than 40 safety and health-related courses for employers.
We are privileged to live in a time and in a society when worker safety matters and when our government is invested in helping promote workplace safety.
But Some Accidents Happen Anyway
Even if employers and employees are diligent and do everything that they can to create a safe work environment, workplace accidents can happen and employees can be injured. That is why workers’ compensation exists—to provide help for workers who have been hurt on the job. Workers who qualify for workers’ compensation benefits should not hesitate to apply for such benefits and to advocate for the full and fair recoveries that they deserve.