Members of the workforce, especially those in industries that require manual labor, are becoming increasingly concerned about injury and fatality while on the job.
In honor of National Safety Month, we surveyed 1,069 people to learn about their top safety concerns and explore their views on environmental health and safety issues. In fact, 39% of all respondents are more concerned with on-the-job safety this year than they were last year. With these findings, we’re working to find new, relevant ways to create safer, healthier work environments for everyone.
According to the 2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), workplace fatalities were up 11% in 2017 compared to just five years prior (4,628 in 2012 vs. 5,147 in 2017). Though some causes of fatality are declining, such as injuries by persons or animals, other causes are proving more dangerous, such as fatal falls. To mitigate workplace safety and health risks, we must remain diligent in addressing the most pressing hazards at hand.
In this post, we’re sharing how safety concerns differ among industries, generations, and gender, as well as the most prevalent workplace safety concerns in 2019 and solutions to reduce them.
On-the-Job Safety Concerns are Increasing Across the Board
It’s not only that 39% of all respondents are more concerned with on-the-job safety this year than they were last year. For many, these concerns are consistently present, with 25% of those surveyed reporting they’re worried on a daily basis about getting injured because of their job.
Workers in Construction and Oil and Gas More Likely to Fear for Their Lives on a Daily Basis
Safety concerns increase significantly for those in the construction and oil and gas industries. According to our survey, construction workers are 27% more likely than those in other industries to worry about getting injured because of their job on a daily basis. This makes sense, given that the CFOI showed one in five of all workplace fatalities occurred in the construction industry in 2017. In construction, accidents such as falls and unintentional contact with equipment were among the highest causes of death.
A construction industry Site Safety and Health Officer responded to our survey saying that, “After becoming a safety officer, I have become aware that the most important job site safety issue is pre-planning, preparation and training. Most companies send new workers into the field without proper safety training… Planning for the overall job and the task at hand is often not done properly, and if done it is not communicated to the worker.”
Workers in the oil and gas industry are also more likely than those in other industries to worry about losing their lives because of their job on a daily basis (33% vs. 12%). In 2017, oil and gas extraction workplace fatalities increased 26% year-over-year, from 89 to 112. According to an investigation by The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), the rise in these accidents was caused by a combination of too heavy equipment, inexperienced workers, and harsh conditions.
Baby Boomers and Millennials are More Concerned About Workplace Fatality
Among the different age groups, Baby Boomers, ages 55 – 73, showed the biggest spike in concern for on-the-job safety this year versus last year. Our survey shows that Baby Boomers are 27% more likely than Gen Xers, ages 39 – 54, to say they are more concerned with on-the-job safety this year than they were last year and 34% more likely than Millennials, ages 23 – 38.
Baby Boomers, who are largely rejecting the traditional retirement age of 65, suffered the highest number of fatal work injuries in 2016. Even so, Millennials are 78% more likely to worry about losing their life because of their job on a daily basis when compared to Baby Boomers.
One explanation for why Millennials worry more about loss of life on the job may actually be due to access to training courses that have made them more aware of workplace safety issues.
For example, after being asked “What made you say you were more concerned with on-the-job safety issues this year than last,” one Millennial survey respondent stated, “Getting the information that I learned from my OSHA training made me more aware.” While another indicated, “Having received safety training, I am now more aware of hazards that I was not otherwise noticing.”
Frontline Employees Report the Most Workplace Safety Concerns
In addition to industry and age, job role affects how people view safety at work. Frontline employees, those who identified as workers and handlers, are 117% more likely to worry about losing their life and are 70% more likely to worry about getting injured because of their job on a daily basis than those in other positions.
For employers, this indicates the need to ensure employees who have supervisory and managerial responsibilities are promoting a culture of safety. Taking advantage of training resources, like the ones 360training.com provides, can improve worker and handler understanding of safety expectations. Even those with years of experience can benefit from additional training.
“I’ve never taken safety lightly, but after training, I am more aware of issues as well of requirements that I hadn’t thought of previously,” said a survey respondent who works as a manufacturing manager.
Top Workplace Safety Concerns in 2019
Across the board, respondents indicated “slip, trip, or fall” (36%) as their top workplace safety concern. This was followed by:
- Electrical Hazards (13%)
- Ergonomic problems (i.e. heavy lifting) (9%)
- Vehicle and equipment strikes (7%)
- Falling Objects (6%)
These responses are directly in line with OSHA’s Focus Four hazards—which underscores the importance of continued OSHA training.
Women and Men Cite Different Causes of Concern
While both men and women identified “slips, trips, and falls” as their top workplace safety concern, there are some major differences when comparing other workplace safety concerns between women and men:
- Women are 500% more likely to identify workplace violence as their number one safety concern, and 100% more likely to identify ergonomic problems as their number one safety concern, when compared to men.
- Men are 200% more likely to identify falling objects as their number one safety concern, and 100% more likely to identify electrical hazards as their number one concern, when compared to women.
These findings are right in line with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report that found:
- Women experienced a higher proportion of fatal injuries due to homicides and exposure to harmful substances and environments relative to men in 2016.
- Men incurred a higher proportion of injuries from roadway incidents; falls, slips, and trips; and contact with objects and equipment.
Top Workplace Safety Concerns Vary by Industry
While overall workers identified “slip, trip, or fall” as their top concern, their next biggest safety concern varied based on their industry:
- Construction: Electrical hazards (13%)
- Manufacturing: Ergonomic problems (16%)
- Oil and Gas: Gas or chemical exposure (18%)
- Transportation: Vehicle and equipment strikes (23%)
- Utilities: Electrical hazards (27%)
These survey results highlight the need for additional, industry-specific training. The ideal solution is to pair online courses with in-person training sessions so employees learn about general safety issues as well as hazards related directly to their specific jobs.
Employees Want More Job-Skills and Career Development Training
Employers are investing in job-skills and career development training, but there’s still room for improvement. We discovered that while 65% of respondents agreed their employer invests in job-skills and career development training, 56% of respondents also expressed they are extremely interested in receiving more job-skills and career development training.
Construction Boasts a Higher Volume of Training
Respondents in the construction industry were 18% more likely to say their employer invests in job-skills and career development training. Given the high occurrence of workplace injury and fatality in the construction industry, safety and career development training are especially crucial. Certification programs, such as OSHA, help to ensure construction workers are educated on safety best practices that are specific to their jobs and workplace environments.
In addition to OSHA and safety certifications, employers can also help employees advance their careers with other certification programs offered through various organizations, including:
- Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI)
- American Institute of Constructors (AIC)
- Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI)
- National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)
- American Concrete Institute (ACI)
- National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER)
- National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)
Manufacturing and Utilities are Falling Behind in Workplace Training
Workers in manufacturing and utilities were 56% and 53% more likely, respectively, to respond that their employers did not invest in job-skills and career development training. Given the online training that’s readily available and accessible, hopefully, this increases for these industries, as it’s become easier for employers to provide training and for employees to seek out training on their own.
For example, here at 360training.com, we offer a library of industrial skills training courses that cover a variety of job-skills topics, such as:
- Building maintenance and management
- Combined cycle power plants
- Distribution and warehousing
- Electrical fundamentals
- Industrial electricity and electronics
- Instrumentation and control
- Mechanical equipment
- Water treatment
We also offer a comprehensive suite of online training courses for workers in the utilities industry that covers NERC compliance, workplace safety, professional development, and craft skills.
Active Shooter Training Has Been Limited Despite Worker Concerns
Eight percent of survey respondents said active shooters are one of their top three workplace safety concerns, however, only 21% have taken an active shooter training course. The courses appear to alleviate these anxieties, as 61% of those who completed a training said they felt safer.
Compared to other industries, the transportation industry is leading the way with this type of training. Those working in transportation are 100% more likely to have received active shooter training than those in other industries.
While some industries are doing a better job of providing active shooter training than others, the training overall has been limited, especially for employees outside of supervisory roles. We uncovered that supervisors and managers are 63% more likely to have received active shooter training than employees at other job levels.
For employers, providing active shooter training for all employees will likely help them to feel safer and more prepared while at work.
Workplace Safety Training Alleviates Concern and Minimizes Risk
There are many reasons why workers might be more concerned with on-the-job safety this year than last, such as certain causes of workplace fatalities increasing and a rising knowledge of various workplace hazards and how they might be at risk. For employers, it’s worth exploring why employees are feeling more concerned so a plan can be created to address specific issues at each workplace.
Job-skills and career development training are a proactive step that companies and self-employed individuals can take to address workplace safety concerns. As we learned from our survey, employees in every industry want more training. This could mean something as simple as 15-minute meetings where employees get together to talk about how to navigate particular safety concerns, or training options that are more sophisticated, like a formal mentorship program. In addition to both general and workplace-specific trainings, employers should consider deploying workplace violence prevention and active shooter training for their employees—at all levels from entry-level to executives.
At the end of the day, as long as construction workers stand on ladders, hazmat workers clean up spills, and systems operators manage power grids, improving workplace safety should remain a priority for both employers and employees. Each year, we strive to learn something new that will help us create safer workplaces for everyone.
The findings presented here are the result of a May 2019 study of 1,069 people who work within industries that are impacted by environmental health and safety concerns (confidence level 95%).