CHICAGO - Thirty-six Illinois workers have died on the job since Jan. 1, 2016. An average of one life lost each week in the Prairie State.
The tragedies that befell two men are sobering reminders of preventable workplace dangers:
- A 47-year-old laborer was trimming trees from an aerial lift approximately 50 feet off the ground in January 2016 when a tree limb struck the lift's bucket and ejected the worker. He died as a result of injuries in the fall. OSHA cited his employer for failing to ensure use of a harness by the worker, require hard hats and not reporting the fatality within 8 hours of the event.
- A 36-year old-truck driver securing a load on a flatbed truck died after a powered industrial vehicle struck him in February 2016. OSHA cited his employer for failing to provide training and evaluation and failing to require the use of wheel blocks/chocks when parking PIVs on an incline.
Since 2013, Illinois worker deaths have increased 28 percent. Struck-by hazards and falls in construction and other industries combined to account for the majority of workplace fatalities.
To save lives, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all Illinois employers to review their safety and health programs and procedures carefully.
"These injuries, illness and workplace deaths that are occurring in Illinois are preventable," said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA's regional director in Chicago. "Employers must develop good safety and health programs to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. These programs should include management leadership, worker participation and hazard identification. Properly employed, a culture of safety can be created in any workplace."
To reduce risk of job related illness, injuries and fatalities OSHA recommends that employers worker with their employees to:
- Evaluate for workplace hazards
- Ensure machinery, tools and work areas are in good working order.
- Develop procedures to eliminate hazards.
- Provide personal protective equipment to employers and enforce its use.
- Train employees on safe operating procedures and retrain frequently.
- Encourage employees to report workplace hazards.
Since Jan. 1, 2015, employers have been required to report any severe work-related injury - defined as a hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye - to OSHA within 24 hours. The requirement that an employer report a workplace fatality within 8 hours remains in force. In the first full year of the new requirement, employers nationwide reported 10,388 severe injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations.
Nationwide, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30, 2016, OSHA initiated 2,709 workplace inspections in response to employer reported referrals. These included 2,052 employer reported hospitalizations of workers and 972 reports of amputation injuries sustained by workers.
In Illinois, from Jan. 1 to Aug. 30, 2016, the agency initiated 636 workplace inspections in response to employer reported referrals. These included 425 employer reported hospitalizations of workers and 284 reports of amputation injuries sustained by workers.
"Prompt reporting of worker injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers to develop safer workplaces," Atha said. "When employers, workers, unions and OSHA professionals work together we can ensure better working conditions and safety training for all Illinois and prevent debilitating injuries, illness and death that cost our economy and families untold sums."
OSHA also offers compliance assistance, tips, free consultation for small and medium size businesses, educational materials, training and other information to employers and workers on common workplace safety hazards and how to prevent illness and injury.
"We want to make sure that no Illinois business, no matter how small, fails to protect its workers because it can't afford good safety information or can't understand how to comply with safety and health standards," Atha said. "Compliance help is only a phone call away and by working together with businesses, unions, and employees we can reduce these sobering statics and prevent workplaces injuries and deaths."
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or one of the five federal offices in Illinois including: Aurora at (630) 896-8700, Calumet City at (708) 891-3800, Chicago North in Des Plaines at (847) 803-4800, Fairview Heights at (618) 632-8612 and Peoria at (309) 589-7033.
The free Illinois On-site Consultation Program phone number is (800) 972-4216. On-site Consultation Program information is available at OSHA's Web site, www.osha.gov/consultation.