Physicians Urge Employers to Promote Safe Workplaces

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's annual Labor Day CheckList allows employers to examine the safety of employees in the workplace.

How many waking hours do you actually spend at home each day?

The average American spends more than 1,800 hours each year, or one-third of his or her life at work. For many workers their workplace has become their home away from home.

Therefore, the workplace should be the starting place for all health and safety practices, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

Last year, nearly 8.5 million Americans became ill or were injured on the job, and slightly more than 6,000 were killed.

To make your workplace a safe and healthy place to be requires a joint effort and commitment of both the employer and employee, said ACOEM.

The annual Labor day holiday is the perfect time to examine your workplace and the tasks you do to determine just how safe is your workplace and the work you do there.

Each year, ACOEM promotes its Labor Day CheckList of Health and Safety to encourage workers and employees to examine their workplaces for potential hazards.

The 2000 Labor Day CheckList was developed for employees and the non-medical, non-technical manager to use in examining the workplace.

Something as obvious as regularly examining workplace environments and making minor corrections and improvements can reap larger results down the road.

"All that''s required for an employer and employee to make a safety and health assessment is some common sense and an understanding of how you fit into the process of your workplace," said Dr. Melissa Bean, associate director for National Healthcare Resources Inc., Creve Coeur, Mo.

The CheckList is divided into three main categories: healthy people, a healthy environment and healthy company.

It includes a section for employers and employees to check off various elements of a safe workplace. Look at the results of the survey to determine what changes need to be made to avoid hazards.

"Small changes can result in significant improvements. Something as simple as repositioning your computer monitor can prevent ergonomic problems from developing and avoid painful and costly medical conditions," said Bean. "The key to making safety improvements in your workplace, both as an employer and employee, is that it must be specific and doable."

The CheckList also includes some suggestions on how to improve workplace health and safety.

For employers:

  • Hold annual employee health fairs. Invite your local hospital, occupational and environmental medicine clinic, American Red Cross and American Cancer Society chapters, health club and other groups to educate employees on healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Sponsor after-work exercise and diet/nutrition classes.
  • Hold regular safety checks of the entire workplace, including office spaces.
  • Hold in-service seminars for employees to educate them on safety procedures and potential workplace hazards.

For employees:

  • Attend provided safety classes offered through your workplace to help you be aware of and avoid potential accidents.
  • Make sure you know how to use your personal protective equipment.
  • Check it and all equipment at your workstation to make sure its is positioned properly to reduce hazards and potential ergonomic problems.

Because personal lifestyle choices can significantly affect an employee''s working life, ACOEM''s Labor Day CheckList also provides suggestions for simple, affordable things workers can do in their own lives that will have a positive effect on their health and safety at work.

Poor lifestyle choices such as lack of sleep, overindulgence in alcohol or food, drug abuse, poor exercise habits all can contribute to worker injuries, deaths and lost productivity at work.

For a free copy of the 2000 Labor Day CheckList, visit the ACOEM Web site at

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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