In 2010, 1,014 Canadians lost their lives while at work – an increase from 939 in 2009. This represents more than 2.78 deaths every day. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says that from 1993 to 2010, 16,143 people lost their lives to due work-related causes – an average of 897 per year.
The National Day of Mourning is held annually on April 28 to commemorate those who have been killed or injured in the workplace.
Training and education can help raise awareness about potential safety issues on the job, but a recent U.S. study found that a worker’s perception of safety in the workplace and the work-life balance established by a company have a significant impact on on-the-job injury.
“We’ve known for some time that certain occupations are more dangerous than others due to a variety of physical and other hazards,” said Dave DeJoy, University of Georgia (UGA) professor of health promotion and behavior. “But in the last 20 years, there has been growing evidence that management and organizational factors also play a critical role. That is, actions taken or not taken at the organizational level can either set the stage for injuries or help prevent them.”
DeJoy and Todd Smith, a recent graduate of the Health Promotion and Behavior doctoral program in the UGA College of Public Health, authored one of the first studies to examine U.S. safety climate perceptions among a diverse sample of occupations and worker groups-from offices to factories-and to highlight the factors linked to injury.
Companies that run in a smooth and effective manner and have minimal constraints on worker performance can decrease injuries by 38 percent as worker opinions improve, according to survey results. A worker’s perception of a positive safety climate can decrease injuries by 32 percent. The safety climate category assessed worker perceptions on the importance of their safety in their work organization.
“We can design the best safety controls, but they must be maintained, and that falls on management,” Smith said. “Enacted policies and procedures-not formalized ones but those acted upon-define a climate of safety.”
DeJoy agrees. “Injury is a failure of management. Organizations who blame individuals for injuries do not create a positive safety climate.”
In addition to factors identified by the study to decrease injuries, work-family interference was established as a significant risk for occupational injury.
“We used to think work was one thing and family was another, but now there is a realization that work-life balance affects performance and productivity,” DeJoy said.
The study looked at the mutual interference between job and family demands. In situations where work interferes with family life or family demands affect job performance, they found that the risk for injury increased 37 percent.
The study can be purchased online.