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Fatigue Remains Top Risk For Workplace Injuries

The National Safety Council also names heavy equipment operation as liability, proposes technology solutions for workplace injuries.

The National Safety Council also names heavy equipment operation as liability, proposes technology solutions for workplace injuries.

workplace injuries
(Photo: Adobe Stock / Andrey Popov)

A recent National Safety Council survey examines trends in workplace hazards and safety technology implementation since 2020. The survey is a part of NSC’s newest report, Safety Technology 2024: Examining Trends in Technology Solutions Used to Reduce Serious Injuries and Fatalities in the Workplace. In 2020, the Work to Zero  initiative released its inaugural research report identifying the most relevant workplace hazards. The survey also outlined the technology needed to mitigate these risks, and contained input from employers and employees to understand their perceptions of safety innovation in the workplace. In 2023, Work to Zero revisited its initial findings to better understand changes in safety technology implementation over the previous three years.

The survey found that in the U.S., a worker dies every 96 minutes with nearly 5,500 fatal work injuries occurring in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unfortunately, this represents a nearly 6% increase in fatal occupational injuries from 2021 and a 3% increase from pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels in 2019. To help reverse this devastating trend, the NSC initially launched Work to Zero in 2019. The initiative received funding from the McElhattan Foundation to educate employers on technological safety enhancements that can reduce deaths in the workplace.

“At the heart of Work to Zero’s mission is preventing worker injuries and ultimately saving lives,” said Katherine Mendoza, senior director of workplace programs at NSC. “Since the initiative began, what we have found is that there are numerous technology solutions available to employers to help mitigate risks and keep workers safe. However, workplace hazards are constantly evolving as job demands change, which is why it’s critical to regularly assess industry risks to better understand trends and find the right solutions. This report does precisely that with a focus on the impact of safety technology implementation over a three-year period.”

As a part of Work to Zero’s initial 2020 research, employers and employees in high-risk industries were surveyed with a goal to understand the awareness, attitudes and usage of safety technologies within different fields. The survey also aimed to reveal the top concerns, most likely exposures and biggest contributors to injuries. The survey was redeployed in 2023 to examine trends in workplace hazards and safety technology implementation since 2020.

Key findings include:

  • Increased exposure to risks: Both employers and employees reported an increased likelihood of exposure to all workplace risks included in the survey – such as fatigue, heavy equipment operation and working at height – with the most significant increases reported by employees.
  • Fatigue remains the top risk across industries and the largest contributor to injuries in the workplace. While workplace violence is considered the least likely exposure, concern over these incidents significantly increased from 2020 to 2023.
  • Enhanced technology applicability and consideration: Across all surveyed technologies, employers reported these solutions to be relevant to the hazards in their workplaces. Additionally, 83% of employees agreed they were open to trying and using new safety technologies in the workplace.
  • Technology use: The most notable increases in technology usage were for risk management software, proximity sensors and drones, while use of other technologies has remained relatively similar between surveys.

While there has been an increase in technology acceptance and implementation among employers between 2020 and 2023, more research is needed to close the gap between considering and using technology. Some barriers to widespread adoption for employers include:

  • Resource constraints: Purchase costs, including initial capital and resource investments, remain an obstacle for employers, although there is a marked decrease since 2020.
  • Privacy concerns: Concern over data collection, privacy issues and security are a top worry for employers.
  • Greater understanding of benefits: Perceptions of current technologies and whether they are meeting organizational needs can be a key barrier as well as driver to the acceptance of new safety technologies in the workplace.

This report builds on the NSC Work to Zero Safety Innovation Journey. This project helps organizations assess risks, identify technology solutions and ready workplaces for implementation. 

Click here for more news and insights about workplace safety.

Business Continuity, Business Resiliency, Emergency Preparedness, Employee Safety, Featured, National Safety Council, resilience, Risk Management, security, Survey, technology, Workplace Safety

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