Many of us are careful to safely secure our children in their seats when we drive around town, and even wear seatbelts in the family car ourselves to be good role models. However, a new study indicates that these safety precautions do not always transfer to the workplace and may contribute to the high number of workplace fatalities caused by car accidents each year. One solution may be company policies that mandate seatbelt use.
In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 4,281 fatal workplace injuries. While workplace fatalities have dropped by nearly 1,000 over the last ten years, 2014’s number is five percent higher than 2013, a trend we don't want to see continue.
There are many causes of fatal workplace injury, including falls from heights, being struck by an object, and even homicide, but the leading cause of fatal injuries at work is transportation incidents. This type of injury results in 41 percent of all work injuries resulting in death.
Transportation incidents are broken down as follows:
- Roadway collisions with another vehicle (31 percent)
- Other roadway incidents (28 percent)
- Pedestrian vehicular incidents (16 percent)
- Non-roadway incidents (13 percent)
- Aircraft incidents (7 percent)
- Rail vehicle incidents (3 percent)
- Water vehicle incidents (3 percent)
- Other (1 percent)
In 2014, 379 workers were killed in multiple-fatality incidents, 64 percent of which were caused by transportation incidents. Clearly, motor vehicles are a dangerous workplace hazard.
Seatbelt Use Among Workers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), workers’ compensation costs for serious, nonfatal injuries among work-related roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles were estimated at $2.96 billion. Add this to the high rate of worker fatality due to motor vehicle accidents, and this becomes an issue that clearly needs to be addressed.
As the CDC points out, a proven and well-documented method to reduce injuries to motor vehicle occupants is the use of seatbelts. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that use of lap/shoulder seat belts reduces the risk for fatal injuries to front seat occupants of cars by 45 percent and the risk to light truck occupants by 60 percent.
However, a recent survey of driving behavior found a significant lack of seatbelt use by workers in particular occupations. Not surprisingly, the workers who report the lowest seatbelt use are the workers who are most at risk for suffering a fatal workplace injury. According to the survey, workers in construction and extraction; farming, fishing, and forestry; and installation, maintenance, and repair reported the lowest use of seatbelts while at work.
The BLS report indicates that construction workers suffered the most fatal injuries at work, followed by transportation and warehouse workers, and forestry, fishing, and hunting personnel. This link between self-reported seatbelt use and worker fatality is no coincidence. Not wearing a seatbelt at work is risky, and employers can make a difference.
How to Protect Workers From Transportation Incidents
The CDC report further found that workers in states that have a primary seatbelt law—meaning you can be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt—report a higher rate of seatbelt use than workers in states with a secondary seatbelt law. Only 10.4 percent of workers in states with a primary seatbelt law report not wearing one while at work; by comparison, 23.6 percent of workers in states with secondary seatbelt laws do not wear them. This finding indicates that workers will wear seatbelts more often if they are required to do so. The CDC recommends that employers—particularly those whose employees use motor vehicles as part of their job duties—develop a policy that requires seatbelt use by their workers and enforce the requirement.
What Role Workers' Comp Plays
If you're injured in a motor vehicle accident while performing your job duties—even if the accident is your fault—you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation to cover your medical bills and time away from work. If an immediate family member is killed in a motor vehicle accident at work, you could be eligible for workers' comp survivor benefits. Call Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys for assistance with your worker’s comp claim in Kansas or Missouri. We're here to help.