Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law

SIF prevention programs may improve workplace safety

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Increasingly, workplace safety experts are advocating an approach focusing on serious injury and fatality prevention rather than one that is based on responding to injuries. For example, in a Virginia workplace where one employee is injured in an accident and another nearly falls from a scaffold, only the former incident will generally be reported to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Situations where an employee is nearly injured most often go unreported. According to a SIF prevention expert, the old paradigm in addressing workplace injuries is to treat all injuries equally and attempt to address common causes throughout the company. The new paradigm focuses on reported events that were or could have been fatal or life-altering. The expert said companies with strong SIF prevention systems are working to recognize and address precursors before incidents occur. It's based on the premise that workers going home safely doesn't necessarily indicate a safe working environment.

Approximately 21 percent of events that OSHA categorizes as recordable have the potential to cause serious injuries or fatalities. The percentage may be greater or lesser depending on the specific industry, location and facility. Important points of a quality SIF prevention program might include empowering workers to prevent hazards before work begins and granting them broad stop-work authority.

Workers will continue to be injured on the job despite having superior safety protocols in place. Most will be entitled to apply for workers' compensation benefits under their employer's insurance coverage. An attorney can provide information about the available benefits and the procedures involved in applying for them.

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