As summer approaches many of us become more active, take vacations and generally spend more time traveling and enjoying the outdoors. Those are good things, but it can lead to more injuries. That is why Governor McCrory has proclaimed June 2016 as “Safety and Hazard Awareness Month.” It’s a good time to examine our behaviors from a safety perspective.
In state government we take safety very seriously. Since Governor McCrory took office, workplace injuries have decreased across state agencies. Fewer injuries means fewer workers’ compensation claims and less lost time from work. In 2013, Governor McCrory signed Executive Order (EO) No. 13, establishing the statewide Health and Safety Leadership Team. The team’s primary goal was to reduce workplace injuries by 10%. We’ve exceeded that goal. Since the EO was signed, there has been a 14% reduction in injury claims and we’re on track to produce even better results. We’re projecting a 20% reduction since 2013 for Fiscal Year 2015-2016.
The Health and Safety Leadership Team has been effective at increasing employee safety training and developing a statewide culture of safety. With their support, the Office of State Human Resources (OSHR) created the “Be a Hazard Hero” program, which encourages employees to report hazards to their supervisors before an accident or injury occurs. The vast majority of workplace injuries are preventable; over 90% of all injuries are caused from unsafe acts that then cause unsafe conditions. Since the program was initiated, state employees have submitted over 250 Hazard Hero reports.
When a state employee is injured, we want to do all we can to make sure they receive necessary medical care to recover successfully and return to work. OSHR’s new Return-to-Work program is designed to do just that. It focuses on recovery and rehabilitation for employees who experience work-related injuries or illnesses. The program has been successful in many ways. It facilitates getting injured employees back to worker quicker. Even though they may be temporarily restricted from performing some or all of their regular duties, employees are given other tasks to perform. This increases productivity and decreases costs for lost work time.
OSHR is leading the way in raising awareness of what it takes to stay safe by encouraging state agencies and universities to sponsor a “Stand Down” in June. It allows employees to take the initiative during their normal workday to hunt for hazards in their work areas and document the hazards online at hazards.nc.gov. Just last month, OSHR held the Wellness and Safety Expo; it connected thousands of state employees and retirees to community resources that promote a safe and healthy lifestyle.
The State of North Carolina will observe “Safety and Hazard Awareness Month” by calling attention to common health and safety risks; and the Governor’s Health and Safety Leadership Team will continue to look for innovative ways to empower state employees to prevent accidents and injuries not only at work, but also on the roads, in our homes and communities.