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Don't break a leg Featured

5:34am EDT January 31, 2002
On average, 50 people are injured every minute, and 17 die each day.

Sound like the accident statistics on Pennsylvania roadways? Actually, they're the national figures related to safety in the workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

With more than 1,800 hours of our lives spent each year at work, workers must play an active role in knowing their rights, recognizing workplace hazards and asking employers to correct them, according to the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses.

"Accidents and injuries cost employers billions of dollars a year. These costs come in the form of property damage, lost worker productivity, lowered morale, workers' compensation costs and even lawsuits. Injuries can happen anywhere, but work should not be hazardous to employee health and safety," says Deborah V. DiBenedetto, president of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses.

"We know that investment in health and safety is proven to dramatically reduce these costs. It is the responsibility of the employer and employee to take steps to prevent injuries and illnesses and keep our workers as safe as possible," says DiBenedetto.

Key to reducing workplace injuries, says DiBenedetto, are education and cultivating a workplace culture committed to health and safety.

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses offers these tips for employers to help reduce the risk of injury on the job:

* Have office safety policies and important names and numbers (fire and rescue, police, building manager) posted on company intranets and in high-traffic areas such as kitchens or supply rooms. Make sure emergency medical equipment and fire extinguishers are strategically placed and properly maintained.

* Constantly survey the work environment for potential safety hazards (e.g. exposed wiring, damaged flooring).

* Consult a licensed occupational health care provider to help determine and manage the most appropriate health and safety programs for your company's needs.

* Prevent ergonomic injuries such as carpal tunnel and back pain by providing employees with comprehensive ergonomic education and training that is supported by proper desk, chair and computer equipment.

DiBenedetto suggests that employers make sure employees know what to do or who to contact in case of an emergency or work-related illness.

They should also be encouraged to identify and report potential safety hazards to their employer, know how to safely and correctly use all office equipment, especially heavy electrical machinery, and know the location of emergency equipment, such as first aid kits, fire extinguisher or defibrillator and how to use them.