Limiting Iowa workplace deaths

Iowa has a work-related problem. It isn’t the employment rate or the minimum wage, it’s something far more serious: it’s the number of work-related deaths that occur in this state.

Every year, 5,500 people die from work-related injuries.

Those deaths can come from all manner of activities. In construction, one of the most deadly industries, the most common deaths are those that come from falls. That makes up 38.8% of deaths nationally. Other major risk factors are being struck by an object (that’s 9.6%), electrocution (8.6%), and (a particularly upsetting thought) being caught in or between objects (7.2%).

Many workplace deaths are simply a matter of employers not securing the workplace well enough. These may not all apply to every workplace, but it is worth noting some here so that all can be sure to keep standards high and watch out for any workspace that does meet the most rigorous standards.

OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, lists ten areas that are particularly dangerous in industry. Again, some of these can apply more broadly to any workplace, so please read through the list and consider the implications for different workplaces you may be associated with.

For the convenience of the reader, the list has been condensed to seven points here, but everyone is encouraged to read through the whole list on the OSHA website.

  1. A lack of fall protection. This seems obvious since falls are such a major concern when it comes to deaths in the workplace.
  2. Communicating amongst coworkers about hazardous locations.
  3. Scaffolding problems. This is obviously construction-oriented, but keeping anything like ladders that might be around in safe places and safe working order is still important. Ladders, in fact, are listed directly at number 7 on the list.
  4. Respiratory protection. This may seem industry focused again, but if there are people painting or using any sort of chemicals in an office, this could also apply there.
  5. Being particularly careful with vehicles is important whether it involves industry, brick and mortar stores, or delivery services.
  6. No matter whether the machines are found in a factory, a store, or an office, it is crucial to remember that machines are large and powerful, and not necessarily capable of easy shut-off or other ways to protect people should they be used without the greatest care.
  7. Every business needs electricity, which means every business leaves the possibility of employees being exposed to the risks of electricity. Regularly make sure wires are all in good shape, and there is no place that might leave employees exposed to possible shocks.

If employers and employees work together, it will be possible to reduce that horrifically high number of workplace-related deaths and make Iowa a safer, happier, and more efficient state. Any reduction in such high numbers (5,500 every year, it is worth repeating here) would be worth the effort required to raise the standards in all seven areas highlighted above.

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