Roughly 13 people will die today from fatal injuries sustained from work. Sounds like a lot? Well, that number is significantly less than 40 years ago, when OSHA recorded 14,000 workers being killed on the job annually. You wouldn't be surprised to find that many of those work injuries and deaths are associated with lone workers.
For many organisations, lone workers seem like a safe bet since they are associated with flexibility, increased productivity and reduced cost. However, lone workers come with a higher risk of injury not seen with those who work in a group.
An Amputation, An Asphyxiation and a Schizophrenic
A lot of the injuries and deaths seen in lone workers can be pretty brutal. Take for example, this 2006 case: A mental health charity worker was sent to the home of a paranoid schizophrenic to deliver him a letter informing him he was in debt. The man, who had a known history of mental health issues, became angered and stabbed the lone worker 39 times with kitchen knives and a pair of scissors.
Another example happened recently in November of 2018; a construction worker’s right arm was ripped off during an industrial accident in Hillsboro Beach, Florida. The man was working with an auger when his right arm got trapped in the drill bit. The mechanical force of the drill-bit caused a complete amputation of his right arm just below the shoulder.
Both the mental health charity worker and the construction worker were working on their own when their incidents occurred. However, working on a job site with other people, but in an isolated area can put your employees at risk as well. Below you can hear a 911 call from a young man who was working in an area out of ear shot from his coworkers. His leg got caught in a baler and was quickly amputated. Though his coworkers were in the recycling plant during the incident, none were aware of his crisis.
There are many more lone worker injuries and deaths documented by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Some as ludicrous as being suffocated after falling into a barrel of beans or as gruesome as someone being pulled into a wood chipper on their first day on the job. You can find many examples similar to these in the OSHA files; this includes:
FY 2010,04/10/10,04/09/10, "The Tiger and Elephant Encounter, Wilkes Barre, PA 18704", Worker was kicked by an elephant.
FY 2012,2/18/2012,2/9/2012, "Omaha Refinishing, Council Bluffs, IA 51501", Worker who was overcome by vapors while refinishing a bathtub, died from asphyxiation.
FY 2012,8/4/2012,7/30/2012, "Bimbo Bakery, Galt, CA 95632", Worker was crushed by a rack of baked goods.
To prevent such tragedies from occurring, you should should educate yourself on common injuries/accidents, who's most at risk and take preventative steps.
Most Common Workplace Injuries and Accidents
Workplace injuries are alarmingly common. According to the National Safety Council, in the United States, a worker is injured on the job every seven seconds. These injuries are most commonly:
- Sprains and tears – Injuries that can occur from twisting, stretching, or overusing a muscle.
- Soreness – Chronic back pain is common among workers who sit in a chair for hours.
- Cuts and punctures – These lacerations range in severity, from something that can be fixed by a simple band aid to cuts deep enough that they'll need to be sutured.
- Contact with objects and equipment – This includes being struct by, compressed between, or crushed by machinery, falling objects, or collapsing structures and equipment.
- Slips, trips, and falls – Wet floors, ladder failure or non-secure floor mats are some of the common culprits.
- Electrocutions - Beware of faulty or exposed wires and improper use of electronics.
Top Occupations with the Largest Number of Injuries
OSHA has documented that the most frequent causes of death are transportation incidents (ex: car crashes or getting run over by a truck), followed by falls, exposure to harmful substances, and being struck by large objects. Based on these frequent factors, can you guess which jobs have the most accidents?
The NSC’s workplace injury statistics indicate that workers in the following five occupations suffer the largest number of disabling injuries
- Service (including firefighters and police officers)
- Transportation and shipping
- Manufacturing and production
- Installation, maintenance, and repair
OSHA, however would put construction a little higher on that list. They report that “In 2016, out of 4,693 worker fatalities in private industries, 991 or 21.1% were in construction" That means, one in five worker deaths were in construction!
Some occupations are more prone to safety risks than others. Here are a few:
- Accidents - Those prone to accidents on the job, such as, construction workers, electricians, and other job types that involve isolation.
- Physical Violence - Prime targets for physical attacks are protective service workers, home healthcare workers, and real estate agents.
- Criminal Activity - If criminals believe the employee is carrying cash, hostage situations are likely. Those at high risk are banks and credit union workers.
Are you in one of the top industries with the largest number or injuries? Do you fear your lone working employees being victim to some of the most common workplace injuries? You should be taking steps to ensure the safety of your lone workers. Read the top 5 steps taken to keep you lone workers safe here: 5 Steps to Reducing Risk For Lone Workers