According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Kentucky employers reported the lowest incident rate for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the state’s history.
Based on a mathematical calculation that describes the number of recordable incidents per 100 full-time employees, Kentucky’s rate improved from 3.8 in 2014 to 3.7 in 2015 – reflecting the most recent data available. This rate has steadily declined since it was first calculated in 1996, when a rate of 8.4 was reported.
“Improving workplace safety for all 1.9 million workers in the Commonwealth is the Labor Cabinet’s top priority,” Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey stated. “While setting an all-time low for the number of workplace injuries and illnesses is an important feat, it is also important that we stay steadfast in our mission to make the Commonwealth the safest place to work and do business in the country. We want every Kentuckian to go home safe and sound at the end of a day’s work, and maintaining a culture of workplace safety is an important foundation to accomplish Gov. Bevin’s goal of making Kentucky the engineering and manufacturing hub of excellence in the nation.”
According to the BLS report, approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported nationally by private industry employers in 2015 – resulting in 48,000 fewer injuries from the prior year. This produced a national injury and illness rate of 3.0.
Five sectors in the Commonwealth saw significant improvements in industry-specific incident rates. Comparing data from 2014 and 2015, Cement and Concrete Product Manufacturing improved by 9.8 points; Sawmill and Wood Preservation improved by 9.2 points; Nonmetallic Mineral Product Manufacturing improved by 5.6 points; Wood Product Manufacturing improved by 2.0 points; and, Machine Shops improved by 4.0 points.
The Labor Cabinet’s Division of Occupational Safety & Health Education & Training leads the Cabinet’s proactive efforts to create safe and healthful workplace conditions. This includes providing free consultative services to employers across Kentucky on ways to increase workplace safety – including how to improve injury and illness rates. Services include free on-site consultations to small employers, as well as other compliance assistance, educational materials, and class-style and online training for all employers.
Last year, the Division conducted 334 consultative surveys identifying and ensuring the abatement of 3,154 serious hazards. Also, 129 training courses were conducted, reaching approximately 4,400 attendees in response to training requests from employers.
Employers and employees all across Kentucky and the nation have access to cost-free safety and health eLearning programs on the Labor Cabinet’s eTrain website. Since the launch of this program, 100,000 participants have utilized this service. This free initiative saves employers money and reduces workplace injuries. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with small and medium-sized businesses to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and help employers establish injury and illness prevention programs.
In addition to these training and education programs, the Division of Compliance is responsible for the enforcement of safety and health standards. Compliance officers inspect workplaces for hazardous conditions and issue citations where violations of standards are found. Inspections may be the result of regular scheduling, imminent danger reports, fatalities, and worker complaints or referrals. Overall, both the education and enforcement responsibilities of the Cabinet comprise a comprehensive goal to “Plan, Prevent and Protect” Kentucky’s workforce.