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December 27, 2021
ASSP, NSC: Pandemic may have curtailed fatal injuries

Professional safety groups pointed to pandemic disruptions, including fewer hours worked and working from home, as contributing factors in the decline in fatal workplace injuries in 2020 reported last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS announced a 10.7 percent decrease in fatal injuries with the release of its 2020 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).

“Reacting to the latest fatality data brings unique challenges because the numbers may not paint a clear picture of the reality of 2020,” American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) President Brad Giles said in a statement.

The ASSP and the National Safety Council (NSC) both pointed out that the CFOI tracks fatal injuries but not illnesses, so it did not include figures for work-related COVID-19 deaths. The groups also stressed that many occupational injuries are preventable.

“Most occupational incidents are preventable given today’s technologies and proven safety and health strategies,” Giles added.

“Voluntary consensus standards can transform safety programs and help organizations more effectively identify and eliminate hazards that lead to worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”

The ASSP is the secretariat for several U.S. and international standards-setting committees.

The NSC pointed to its continuing efforts, such as its Work to Zero initiative, which has researched safety technologies like drones, fatigue monitoring and wearables, proximity sensors, and virtual or augmented reality.

The ASSP has a membership of 36,000 professionals across industries who develop safety and health management plans to prevent injuries, illnesses, and deaths. The NSC is a nonprofit safety advocacy group focused on eliminating preventable death and injury in the workplace, on roadways, and from drug and alcohol impairment.

NSC/Amazon ergonomics advisory group

The NSC, along with Amazon, announced a 5-year partnership and the formation of an advisory council earlier this year focused on preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

In addition to Amazon, member organizations of the advisory council include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Ergonomics Center at North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Tech; aerospace manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin; automakers Stellantis and Tesla; and insurers Amerisure and Liberty Mutual.

The mission of the group of safety and health experts includes assisting in guidance, practice, and research to enrich the body of knowledge about MSDs; participating in and providing insight and philanthropic support for grants, hackathons, and innovation challenges; and promoting the group’s advocacy and policy efforts.

The NSC has several initiatives planned for the coming year, including:

  • An “MSD Pledge” aimed at advancing ergonomics interventions at companies of all sizes;
  • An inaugural Hackathon Challenge inviting individuals and organizations to develop cutting-edge solutions aimed at preventing and eliminating workplace-related MSDs;
  • Grants to small businesses, universities, and students funding research and innovation to help companies of all sizes address MSDs; and
  • An “MSD 2025 Pioneering Research” project, launching with an initial white paper in the second half of 2022, to conduct research utilizing artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning tools to explore current and future MSD innovations and trends.

“Ergonomic issues are a prevalent challenge that impact many people around the world, especially in the workplace,” Julia Abate, executive director of the Ergonomics Center at North Carolina State University, said in the NSC’s announcement.

“While this is a daunting task, it is also a tremendous opportunity to support research and innovation that will ultimately make a positive impact in people’s lives.”

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