According to a report by Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, there were 95,206 workplace accidents and 146 fatalities in the commonwealth in 2002, the last year for which figures are available. The statistics also showed a 5.3 percent increase in workplace injuries and a 9 percent increase in fatalities from the previous year.
"The safety of the men and women in Pennsylvania's workforce absolutely is a priority," Rendell said when he launched the safety awareness program. "The statistics clearly show a need for improvement right now. We can do better. We must do better."
Half the injuries recorded in the report were in construction, public utilities, transportation and manufacturing. To address the situation where accidents in outdoor workplaces pose risks for workers and endanger residents, Rendell proclaimed June 2004 Workplace Safety Month, stating that the month will serve as a springboard for the announcement of activities in support of heightened workplace safety awareness.
"Many of the work-related incidents that occur in Pennsylvania - indoors and outdoors - are preventable when workplace safety is a top priority, and this administration is taking steps to increase safety in both environments," Rendell said. "For example, we believe we can make a significant improvement by encouraging excavators to use PA One Call, the statewide communications network that maintains maps of underground utilities and provides information to the public about where to dig safely."
Pennsylvania law requires people to contact PA One Call before digging, and violators can receive fines and be held liable for damages. Failure to use the system can result in disruption to vital utilities - such as natural gas, phone services including 911 and electricity.
Rendell said he is confident that by increasing use of the PA One Call system, "we will prevent future injuries and save countless thousands of dollars in damage and utility interruptions."
PA One Call Executive Director William Kiger reported that the system fielded more than 500,000 calls last year, yet there were about 20,000 hits to registered utilities in Pennsylvania.
The number of hits to utilities signals a clear need for improvement, Labor & Industry Secretary Stephen Schmerin said. "Real danger is the result when people don't call before they dig with powered equipment," said Shmerin. "If you don't 'Call Before You Dig,' you're taking the safety of Pennsylvanians into your own hands, and that's not acceptable."
To improve safety in outdoor workplaces, Rendell announced:
- A comprehensive "Call Before You Dig" public awareness campaign that launched June 2 and will run through October - the peak digging season. The campaign will feature radio advertising, targeted e-mail marketing and public appearances by Schmerin to reinforce the need to phone PA One Call. The program is funded by a damage prevention grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, PA One Call and the Department of Labor & Industry.
- Pennsylvania's planned participation in the implementation of 811. The nationwide abbreviated dialing arrangement was proposed by the Federal Communications Commission in May and would allow calls to the number 811 to be routed directly to PA One Call. The number 811 is expected to be available to Pennsylvania in the future.
- Health & Safety Day 2004. Scheduled for June 16 in Harrisburg, this cooperative effort between the state's Departments of Labor & Industry and Health gathers Pennsylvania employers, supervisors and human resource personnel to learn effective and successful ways to keep employees healthy and safe.