The Importance of Off-the-Job Safety

Why does off-the-job safety makes cents and sense?

Employee safety away from work can have a significant impact on the work place such as employee time away from work (for their own injuries and time away to care for loved ones). Lost time is lost productivity and may mean that others need to fill in for those who are away.

One way to engage your employees in work safety is to promote off-the-job safety awareness.

Let them know how much you value their work contributions by letting them know that you care about their safety and their loved ones' safety away from work.

From the National Safety Council (NSC):

Here are the top causes of unintentional injury and death in homes and communities from 2015:

  1. Poisoning
  2. Motor vehicle crashes
  3. Falls
  4. Choking and suffocation
  5. Drowning
  6. Fires and burns
  7. Natural and environmental incidents

The NSC recently published an article on Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic: Painkillers Driving Addition, Overdose, and it reports that the number one cause of unintentional death in America is currently caused from opioid pain medication, and 22,000 people die annually. It also went on to note that in 2006, the estimated total cost in the United States of non-medical use of prescription opioids was $53.4 billion, of which $42 billion (79%) was attributable to lost productivity.

So how and where do you start?

There are calendars available that promote safety and emergency-preparedness activities throughout the year. These calendars focus on the events for each month and provide information and resources for each topic. The calendars can be used to plan the messaging that you want to share with your laboratory employees and then decide the best way to share the information, such as:

  • Email: Write a quick message that describes a topic on which you would like to focus and share the links so that your employees can read the information.
  • Bulletin board: Use a location in a break room or locker room to post topics of interest and refresh the information monthly. There are also resources (such as posters and pamphlets) that can be downloaded and printed to place in these meeting locations for your employees to read during breaks or to take home for others to use.
  • Staff meeting:
    • Take 10 minutes during a lab meeting to discuss a topic of interest. There are training materials available that can be used either as a starting point or as they are.
    • Or better yet, see if your employees would like to research an off-the-job safety topic and share it with your team. Maybe they have a particular topic that they have an interest in, or had experience with, and would like to share with the team.
    • Discuss local or national events that highlight home safety, such as home fires, boating accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.
    • Bring in an expert on a particular topic to provide an in-depth discussion. Your local fire and police departments and the American Red Cross may have a community outreach program that would allow them to work with you on promoting safety at home. Learn CPR, and learn how to use a fire extinguisher.

What are some resources you can use?

There are many resources available for off-the-job safety:

Help keep your laboratory employees safe at work and at home. It really only takes a few minutes to share this information, and it can provide many rewards. If you have some interesting tips or methods on how your laboratory promotes off-the-job safety, let me know so that I can share with others.

Pat Hlavka (@pathlavka)

Pat Hlavka

Pat Hlavka is a Safety Coordinator in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. She received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an M.S. degree in Safety from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Pat worked as a safety professional in the industrial setting (IBM and Benchmark Electronics) for over 15 years. Since joining the Mayo Clinic in 2008, her responsibilities have focused on laboratory safety including the safety audit program, developing and maintaining documentation, training, communications, awareness, incident investigation, laboratory safety committees, and emergency management.