Last week's death of Zane Martin, who was killed when a box culvert of freshly poured concrete collapsed on top of him, serves as a reminder of the dangers that come along with many jobs.
In addition to Martin, three workers in Cape Girardeau County lost their lives during 2010 in work-related fatalities, according to Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton.
Cape Girardeau painter Carl Boitnott, 43, was electrocuted when he touched a high voltage wire while painting a building in Jackson; Glen Sinclair, 61, of Cape Girardeau died after the Bush Hog-style rotary mower he was operating at work rolled over on top of him; and Daniel Sebaugh, 72, of Daisy died from a head injury received in a tractor accident on his farm.
While 2010 statistics aren't yet available statewide, 142 Missourians died from occupational injuries in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's down slightly from 148 workers in 2008. This is due in part to the economic factors that resulted in a 6 percent decline in total hours worked, according to a bureau news release.
Non-fatal workplace injuries and illness resulted in lost work time for 16,740 Missouri workers in 2009, according to data released this month in the Missouri Department of Labor's annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illness.
The survey collects data from 5,400 Missouri employers including private industries and state and local governments.
Injuries to the hands, fingers and wrists from repetitive factory work; lower back pain from heavy lifting; and problems with knees, ankles and feet are the most common workplace injuries occupational medicine specialist Dr. Glen Cooper sees at Saint Francis Medical Center's Corporate Health Services.
He suggests employees monitor any soreness caused by doing their job and report symptoms early to their employer before the problem gets too advanced.
Occupational medicine specialists try to look at each case to learn how the injury occurred and how it could have been prevented, said Dr. Thomas Marsh, director of occupational medicine at Southeast HealthWorks.
"We want to ensure that this incident or injury doesn't happen to somebody else," he said. "You can do a lot to prevent many of the injuries we see, but it starts with the individual doing the job."
Proper training, making sure the person is physically capable of doing the job and a good work ethic are all key to worker safety, Marsh said.
Workers can often prevent injuries when they stop and think a situation through, for example finding out the weight of an item before they lift it, he said.
He also suggests employers require prospective workers to get a baseline physical exam to make sure their new job doesn't aggravate any pre-existing conditions. These exams are a "low-cost insurance policy" for employers.
"A fair amount of pre-existing problems show up as a work injury when a person is doing a job they shouldn't have been involved with," Marsh said.
Employers also should look at jobs to ensure they are designed to cause the least amount of stress to the workers, Cooper said.
Workers with more than five years of service accounted for 38.1 percent of occupational injuries and illness resulting in days away from work in private industry in 2009 and 41 percent in local governments, according to the Missouri Department of Labor.
Workers who were 45 to 54 years old accounted for 24 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work in private industry and 31 percent in local governments.
The aging work force plays a part in lost productivity from workplace injuries, according to Marsh.
"Although older individuals have decreased injury rates, but when they do hurt themselves it takes 3 times as long as for them to heal," he said.
Employers need to take into account the investment they have in each employee, Cooper said.
"A factory worker that's been with you four or five years knows their job and is highly efficient," he said. "If you lose that person and have to bring in a person with less experience, you lose productivity."
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