Lost in the Daily News Cycle: Workplace Deaths

Recently the headlines have been taken up with the presidential debates, terrorism threats, what the big box-office hits are and how holiday sales have been going.

And sadly some big stories have been about the all-too-often examples of attacks in places like San Bernardino with 16 dead, Roseburg 10, and Charleston 9.

Given the outrage about those deaths, why didn’t the fact that 4,679 people were killed in the workplace last year make the headlines? I think I know the answers. First, they didn’t happen all at once. They were spread out over the year and 3,000 miles. And they happen every year, with the rate being between 4,500 and 4,700 for the last 5 years. Unfortunately, we’ve become numb to the death toll, unless it happens in our neighborhood or to a friend or relative.

A big part of our company’s business is helping customers communicate with their employees, and the top issue is often safety. You can see why, given the number of deaths every year, as well as the nearly three million additional workplace injuries and illnesses. It’s our job to produce safety-related content that can cut through the clutter and reach employees with information that helps them model behavior that saves their lives and those around them.

The headline that I’d really like to see in 2016 is, “Workplace Death Rate Plunges.” We’ll be doing our part, and in the meantime it’s helpful to look back in history and realize that we all HAVE made progress. From 1933 through 1997 deaths from work-related injuries declined 90%. During this same period, the workforce more than tripled, from 39 million to approximately 130 million. That’s genuine progress, but with thousands killed and millions still injured every year, we’ve got a way to go.

Here’s to a safe 2016!

Frank Kenna III
December 29, 2015

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