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Work-Related Death Tally in Michigan Should Prompt Internal Safety Reviews, Expert Advises

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Most businesses attempt to balance their own safety responsibilities with expectations that employees will look out for themselves. But business owners have many incentives to prioritize safety in the workplace.

“Naturally you expect your employees (and yourself) to follow good safety practices in the workplace. That’s a given,” John Hall wrote for the Examiner Dec. 23. “Sadly, not everyone takes the time to understand the consequences of poor safety habits. Every year in Michigan, dozens of people lose their lives and many hundreds more are injured while on the job.”

On-the-job injuries and fatalities are also rising many places as the economy recovers and people re-enter the workforce, sometimes in high-risk jobs.

The long lists of safety requirements enacted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are at times seen as onerous or overly picky. OSHA requires, for example, that battery rooms be ventilated in certain ways so as to prevent hazards.

But the costs of workplace accidents are undeniable, both in tragic personal loss and in business expenses.

According to OSHA’s Michigan branch, 73 workers died in work-related accidents in 2014 (as of Dec. 22). Violations can also result in hefty fines for employers.

Stronger Reporting Standards
Hall, a small business expert, recommends that all businesses in the state prioritize safety as the new year approaches. “In light of this information [about fatal accidents in Michigan], it might be a good idea to review your business’ safety program and look for areas to improve,” he advises. Particular attention should be paid, he says, to areas that are commonly cited by OSHA.

Federally, the most-cited violations recorded by OSHA fell into these top 10 categories in 2014: ladders; electrical, wiring methods; machine guarding; electrical, general requirements; fall protection; hazard communication GHS (globally harmonized system); scaffolding; respiratory protection; powered industrial trucks; and lockout/tagout.

Business owners should also know that starting Dec. 1, new OSHA reporting rules will go into effect: “Although most workplaces are far safer today than in the past, terrible accidents do occur, and the agency is implementing some broader reporting requirements for employers,” The Detroit News reported Dec. 8.

The requirements expand the list of injuries that employers with 10 or more employees must report to federal regulators, and requires that reports be made within eight hours of the incident in question. Any work-related hospitalization, amputation or eye loss must be reported within 24 hours. Under the old rules, employers were only required to report hospitalizations of multiple employees due to the same workplace accident or illness.

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