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Friday, August 27, 2004

Accident Prevention Urged for Final Weeks of Fiscal Year '04

As the fiscal year approaches its home stretch, the staff in Environment, Health and Safety are working hard to ensure that the successes of earlier this year will hold up, and accident numbers will be lower than they've been in several years. That would mean a positive score in the annual management assessment ratings and, more importantly, a safe and healthy workforce.

But a few unfortunate incidents in recent months have those injury graphs inching upward, and EH&S has decided it's time to reinforce the message about good safety practices and accident prevention. When the Division did it the first time around, last January in kicking off a lab-wide safety campaign, statistics plummeted.

"The Lab responded to the call," said Robin Wendt, Deputy Director for EH&S.

"And we're still doing well in accident prevention. But some of our early gains are slipping. The Lab community needs to know that safety is an ongoing responsibility. It has to be reinforced constantly."

It's a high priority for the Office of Science, Wendt noted, but more importantly, the health and vitality of the lab is at stake. The final month of this fiscal year is especially important, he said, because people are returning from vacation, students are arriving -- some with little safety training - and Facilities is at peak activity with year-end projects.

He noted two particular areas for employees to consider: what is common sense, and what their bodies tell them. "Some accidents are difficult to prevent," Wendt said. "But simple caution is sometimes all that's needed to avoid one. If someone has back pain, should he try to lift something and aggravate it? Or, if a worker experiences aches and pains, are they common to aging or the result of ergonomic factors? These things should be discussed with a supervisor and, if necessary, checked out at Health Services."

Awareness pays off. Since this year's heightened attention to laboratory safety, accident rates have plummeted. As of July, the fiscal '04 rate of accident cases per 100 employees was 1.25. This compares favorably with the '02 (2.17) and '03 (2.51) rates. Another measure is the DART rate - incident rates involving employee days away from work, restricted or transferred. This year's number is 0.47 per 100 employees; in '02 it was 1.07, and in '03 it was 1.11.

With just over 30 days to go in FY2004, Wendt is helping the Lab strive for an accident-free Olympic-style dash to the finish line, on the way to a Safety Gold.



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