August EHS News Roundup

Injured workers more likely to die from opioid overdose … OSHA findings show increases in fatality investigation … and the biggest trends in PPE

Top Story: Injured workers more likely to die from suicide or opioid overdose

Hello – Holly Callender with the EHS news you may have missed this month.

Drug overdoses and suicides have been rising since the year 2000 and are major contributors to a recent decline in US life expectancy, according to a recent study.

The opioid crisis is largely to blame, with a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017. Suicide rates in 2016 increased 30% from 1999.

Researchers found that workplace injury significantly raises a person’s risk of suicide or overdose death. This is the first study measuring increased deaths related to opioid use and depression among injured workers.

Injured workers often receive powerful prescription pain medication, including opioids. In one study, 42% of workers with back injuries were prescribed opioids within a year after injury. Approximately 16% of those prescribed opioids continued taking them for four quarters, with doses increasing substantially over time.

New OSHA findings: fatality investigations have increased

A recent OSHA report reveals that fatality investigations in the workplace are actually on the rise, rather than decline.

The most recent report from OSHA shows that the organization is struggling in their task of helping ensure safe workplace conditions for all. There are several reasons for the downturn in workplace safety as OSHA describes in its most recent report on inspections and fatalities in U.S. workplaces. But first, we need the details:

According to OSHA, the organization made more “fatality inspections” in the 2018 fiscal year than in any other year in their last decade-plus of operation. OSHA performed 32,023 total inspections in 2018, marking a 1.2% drop since 2017. Of those inspections, however, 941 were categorized as “catastrophes” or “fatalities.”

Inspections for such incidents now occur in American workplaces more frequently than at any point since 2007. In 2007, OSHA conducted 1,043 fatality and catastrophe inspections.

These numbers tell us a few things about OSHA, its mission and the general state of safety-mindedness in modern workplaces.

The Biggest Trends in PPE Design

Hardhats, steel-toed boots, safety glasses, and earplugs – they've been around for decades, but are they the same as they've always been?

The categories may have largely stayed the same, but PPE innovation keeps taking microscopic steps forward. The very molecules of the materials that make up our PPE are being modified and manipulated to make materials that are better, stronger, lighter, and more resistant than the ones Mother Nature has conceived.

Make no mistake, demand is driving innovation in this sphere. The PPE market raked in nearly $48 billion globally in 2018. That's no small potatoes. There are brilliant minds and a lot of dollars behind innovations in PPE, but what are they working on?

Preparing for the future: Road safety and occupational health in the era of autonomous cars

Recent UK statistics showed that 24,831 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents in 2017, with 1,793 fatalities.

This raises the question of whether the forthcoming introduction of autonomous cars on roadways will help to make them safer or actually make driving more dangerous.

Thus far, the autonomous features built-in to many modern vehicles such as adaptive cruise control and lane-centering steering, all work within the confines of our current driving infrastructure. Drivers are still required to be engaged and attentive, and these features are seen as helpful to human drivers but not a replacement for them. But this is just a warm-up for the world of robotic driving soon to come.

By the year 2021, according to the UK Department for Transport (DfT), fully autonomous, self-driving vehicles will be hitting the road throughout the United Kingdom. Experts project that a change in behaviour will be necessary on the part of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to make autonomous cars safe for all.

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