Every year around the world, 500 million workers are affected by an occupational accident or work-related illness, and this number is still rising. The construction industry is the most dangerous field in which to work, with a very high rate of accident, injury and death occurring on site. Despite this, most fatalities at work occur in a range of work situations where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals, and where they are inadequately protected against potential harm. Up to 80% of accidents in the workplace occur due to human error, and factors such as fatigue due to an altered or disrupted sleep pattern can increase the risk of injury. However, there are also many cases where workers are injured or killed because of negligence on the part of their employer. Although supporting these workers and their families after an accident is essential, by ensuring workers in hazardous industries are given adequate information and protective equipment, many of these accidents could be avoided in the first place.
Protecting Construction Workers From Falls
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the US, one in five worker fatalities is in construction, and every year a tenth of construction workers are injured. One of the most common causes of injuries is falling from a height. Climbing ladders and scaffolding can be dangerous, but it is made more risky when a contractor fails to take adequate safety measures to protect their workers. Without the appropriate equipment such as helmets and safety harnesses, workers are much more vulnerable to serious injury if they have an accident. JJS Justice note that the resulting injuries sustained after a fall at work can be devastating. From broken bones to permanent damage to the spinal cord, workers can be left with expensive medical bills and no wage with which to pay them. At the same time as providing help and support, employers should be held responsible for their failings in order to improve safety levels throughout the industry.
Informing Workers About Hazardous Substances
A UN report has found that one worker dies every 30 seconds from exposure to toxic substances in their workplace. Many workers are unaware of the dangers of the materials they are handling on a regular basis, and yet, as well as being potentially fatal, they commonly cause short-term illnesses such as rashes and burns, and long-term organ diseases from poisoning. One of the principal recommendations in the UN report is that every worker should know what chemicals they are working with, and should be given adequate details about their toxicity. Global standardized labeling of chemicals allows employees to inform themselves of the risks, understand how to administer first aid in case of an accident, and ensure that they are given appropriate safety equipment to protect themselves.
As the number of accidents in the workplace is still rising, improving protection for employees is vital. Continually reviewing global safety standards, and holding neglectful employers to account when avoidable accidents occur, can help to reduce the number of injuries caused by identifiable hazards at work.