California Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rate Declines
Written by: Brittiny Harris, NES, Inc.
The rate of reported workplace injuries and illnesses fell slightly between 2015 and 2016.
Lower Rate of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Reported in 2016
Recent data indicate that the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in California has decreased from the previous year’s numbers. Compared to the reported number of full-time employees in 2015, California’s employment grew in 2016 by several hundred thousand employees, but reported injuries and illnesses have declined slightly. According to the Cal-OSHA Reporter article Employment Grows, but California Injuries and Illnesses Decline, in 2015 it was reported that 3.8 employees per every 100 full-time employees were recorded as killed, injured, or ill; in 2016 that rate was recorded at 3.7, which is the lowest rate in over a decade.
As a reminder, employers will need to post their 2017 annual summaries of injuries and illnesses between February 1, 2018 and April 30, 2018. Any companies that have 11 or more employees are required to submit their report even if there are no fatalities, injuries, or illnesses to record, according to the California Code or Regulations (CCR) Title 8, sections 14300 through 14300.48.
It was reported by NES in the January 31, 2017 article OSHA Final Rule: Electronic Injury and Illness Reporting that electronic submittal of forms 300, 300A, or 301 (as necessary) would be required in 2018; as of the writing of this article, this is not yet an established requirement in California (see the May 2017 California Department of Industrial Relations [DIR] publication Log 300 Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, with Anti-Discrimination Provisions).
Citations Accompany Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
A decrease in injuries and illnesses is good news, but many incidents were still reported in 2016. The Cal-OSHA Reporter cites a few examples of work fatalities and injuries in the article Fatalities, Citations and the Lessons They Have for Employers along with their resulting citations. The goal is for employers and employees to see and understand the safety measures that must be implemented to achieve a safe work environment. A few of these examples include:
- A ladder that was too short: one employee tried to get off of a roof, missed his mark, and fell to his death. Fall safety and/or proper ladder use training may well have prevented this tragedy. Cal/OSHA is pursuing almost $69,000 in penalties.
- A hazardous skylight: A maintenance worker was attempting to fix a leak in a skylight when he fell through the opening to his death. Proper training (accident-related violation of General Industry Safety Orders § 3212) had not been provided to this employee. The employer is appealing the citations (issued by Division of Occupational Safety and Health [DOSH]) and almost $42,000 in proposed penalties.
- A milling machine was not shut down with a lockout/tagout system: While an employee was attempting to place a workpiece in a mill machine, the piece was bumped (by the still running machine) causing the piece to hit the employee’s head. The employee was pronounced dead on the scene. DOSH cited the employer for three serious, accident-related violations of the lockout/tagout and point-of-operation guarding standards. DOSH seeks more than $51,000 in penalties.
Many workplace injuries are fall related and may be prevented with proper training and utilization of fall safety measures.
Through these disastrous examples, Cal/OSHA hopes that employers will create needed safety guidelines and that employees will follow them. If the lessons derived from these events are fully learned, future such incidents can be successfully avoided.
Workplace Injuries and Illnesses: How to Keep Workers Safe
According to EHS Today article 4 Steps to Keep Your Workers & Facility Safe This Winter, of all the businesses that are forced to close following an emergency event, only a quarter of the facilities are able to reopen for business. Here are some safety plans to keep your business open and running.
Machinery and equipment that are used in a work environment must be shut down and turned off properly between each use (this can include more than just turning off or unplugging). Cal/OSHA has a standard for hazardous energy, found in Title 29 CFR § 1910.147, known as ‘lockout/tagout’. By following these rules, 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries are estimated to be prevented each year. An OSHA Fact Sheet on the subject provides a basic breakdown of proper lockout/tagout procedures, summarized as follows:
- OSHA standards need to be understood by employees and employers; employees must understand the employer’s control program and all elements that are related to their tasks
- Energy control procedures need to be inspected annually, or more frequently, and employers need to enforce their lockout/tagout energy control program
- Only use devices that are properly authorized for lockout/tagout
- Lockout devices are always preferred over tagout devices (tagout devices are not capable of being locked out); tagout devices need to be able to provide the same amount of protection as lockout devices
- Make sure the employee who applied the lockout device is the same employee who removes the device
- Authorized employees must follow the Hazardous Energy Control Procedure (HECP) for each individual machine
Proper management of machinery and equipment can prevent up to almost 10 percent of serious accidents created in the work environment.
Properly implemented lockout/tagout procedures are used to secure machinery/equipment while under repair or inspection or while it is out of service. For more information, view the September 16, 2016 NES article Lockout/Tagout (LOTO).
Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP)
The Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) has been created to keep all personnel safe from hazardous situations in the workplace. Every employer is required by Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations (T8CCR) section 3203 to always have a working and enforced IIPP in the work environment. The California DIR Publication What an IIPP is and How it Works lists eight elements that are required to be fulfilled in the IIPP:
- Hazard Assessment
- Accident/Exposure Investigation
- Hazard Correction
- Training and Instruction
Keeping the IIPP up to date and fully enforced will help to decrease workplace injuries and illnesses. For help on developing an IIPP, there are online sites (such as the DIR Injury and Illness Prevention Program Etool) that will help employers create one through asking a series of questions. Answering the questions in full and specifically for the individual workplace will help create a beneficial IIPP. Check T8CCR section 3203 to make sure the IIPP meets all of Cal/OSHA’s requirements.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
OSHA requires all facilities that have 11 or more employees to have a written and current emergency action plan (smaller businesses still need one but may communicate plan details orally). Make sure seasonal hazards are reviewed and include how to prepare for each season. Also ensure there is a plan for power outages, ice or rain hazards, and evacuation procedures. Clear and precise communication and understanding of a facility’s emergency action plan may well save personnel from fatality, injury, or illness in an emergency situation.
For more information on Emergency Action Plans, see the September 14, 2017 NES article Emergency Action Plan Design and Implementation.
Job Hazards Analysis
Conduct a walk through on the work facility and identify hazards that may affect employees. Always involve employees’ opinions in what is hazardous or potentially hazardous in their work environment. Protect the facility by keeping a routine maintenance schedule, unclogging gutters, keeping a sturdy roof on buildings, and repairing any leaks or cracks. Provide extra safeguards when needed. Always document and review the changes needed/made. When acquiring new machinery, convey to everyone the new procedures that need to be followed. Most importantly, try to identify hazards in the workplace before a problem occurs.
A job hazards analysis walk-through, particularly one in which employees’ opinions and observations are involved, can provide the input required to help prevent or reduce workplace injuries.
Use Visuals to Highlight Hazards
Highlight areas of concern, such as dark spaces, door entries, and low clearance ceilings, by adding paint, tape, or a sign to increase visibility. Make sure any areas that could potentially be slippery, such as handrails, ramps, and stairs, are clearly marked. Always keep areas clear to avoid injury. By highlighting the dangers, fewer injuries and illnesses will impact the work environment. Protecting all personnel from work hazards will create a safer, cleaner environment.
The use of caution tape in hazardous areas is another measure that can be implemented to help prevent workplace injuries.
The Cal/OSHA Consultation Branch will provide free assistance with efforts to create a safer work environment. Any employers or employees who have questions or concerns can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.
NES Cares about Reducing Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
NES has been providing environmental consulting services on behalf of a wide array of public and private businesses and government agencies for the past 30 years. If you need help with or have questions regarding the development of occupational and/or environmental health & safety plans at your facility, please contact NES at firstname.lastname@example.org or 916-353-2360 / 1-800-NES-ADVISE.
Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental Health Article: California’s Nonfatal Worker Injuries, Illnesses Level in 2016
Cal-OSHA Reporter Article: Employment Grows, but California Injuries and Illnesses Decline
California DIR Publication: Log 300 Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, with Anti-Discrimination Provisions
EHS Today Article: 4 Steps to Keep Your Workers & Facility Safe This Winter
OSHA Fact Sheet: Lockout/Tagout
California DIR Publication: What an IIPP is and How it Works
DIR Etool: Injury and Illness Prevention Program