The second Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) Week, Aug. 28-Sept. 1, is a reminder that while workers are safer than they used to be, injury, illness and even death in the workplace is still an unfortunate reality.
OEHS Week, sponsored by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), is a week devoted to bringing greater awareness of workplace and community health issues to the public.
The theme, "Protecting Your Future ... Today," highlights the far-reaching nature of occupational and environmental safety''s impact on the public, AIHA said.
"We chose Labor Day weekend as the perfect time to remind workers, management and the community at large that workplace safety affects everyone," said AIHA President Steven Levine, PhD, CIH. "Even one fatality on the job is one fatality too many."
"But beyond that, we are concerned with overall safety. We want all employees to consider their workplace environment, even in offices that otherwise may seem extremely safe," said Levine.
For instance, Levine suggested asking the following questions: Is your workstation ergonomically sound? Is your chair comfortable? Do you take occasional breaks to stretch? Is your computer monitor at the proper angle?
"All of these things can add up to the difference between working safely and a work-related injury or illness," said Levine. "We''ve made great strides in the last few years, but there''s still room for improvement."
As Levine noted, if you have been working in the United States for the last decade, chances are that you''re feeling safer on the job today than you did 10 years ago.
That''s because the overall rates of worker illnesses and injuries have fallen dramatically since 1993, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nearly 50,000 fewer injuries or illnesses were reported in 1997 compared to the previous year, despite the larger number of staff-hours.
Still, even with fewer reported illnesses, injuries and fatalities on the job, workers suffered 2.9 million injuries that resulted in lost work days, restricted duties or both.
Since safety issues don''t disappear in the company parking lot, OEHS Week also focuses on safety in the community.
Levine noted that in addition to its focus on workplace safety, OEHS Week is designed to heighten awareness about several vital community health concerns, including carbon monoxide poisoning, indoor air quality and noise exposure.
"Just as in the workplace, paying attention to seemingly small things can reduce injuries in the home. There are many things the average person can do," said Levine. "Reducing noise pollution and hearing loss by lowering the volume on stereos or wearing earplugs when mowing the lawn for instance."
Levine added, "We are looking forward to our second annual OEHS week to further educate consumers and the community as a whole."
For more information about OEHS Week, visit AIHA''s Web site at www.aiha.org.
by Virginia Sutcliffe