By Kathy Eastwood, West Point Public AffairsMarch 31, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 31, 2011) -- The workplace can be fraught with dangers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009 report on occupational injuries and illnesses, there was a significant decrease in the number of cases reported in the private sector for construction and extraction workers, production workers, and transportation and material moving workers.
However, there were significant increases in incidents for light or delivery service truck drivers, landscapers and groundskeepers, restaurant cooks and registered nurses. Protective service occupations had the highest proportion of injury and illness cases in each of the government sectors.
Minimizing or eliminating workplace accidents and injuries is the goal of most employers. Fewer accidents and injuries increases productivity due to fewer days off for employees to recover and helps keep down the cost of health insurance premiums.
The West Point Safety Office began teaching safety to supervisors March 14 with instructors from the National Safety Council teaching the supervisor's course.
"This is a new safety course that trains supervisors in what safety risks to look for," Dave Rasmussen, from the Directorate of Logistics, said. "The course is a comprehensive look at safety. There is a lot of hazardous work going on at West Point behind the scenes with the electrical and woodworking shops, (for example) and supervisors need to know how to protect the workers along with being aware of legal and moral issues related to employee safety."
Rasmussen said he was aware of safety issues and preventive safety measures concerning cadets and the military, but was unaware about safety issues concerning civilian employees.
"A supervisor is responsible for all of his or her employees, including contractors and government employees," he said. "It's up to us, as supervisors, to ensure the contractors are following Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Safety Council regulations."
Supervisors are also responsible for volunteers such as those who work at Michie Stadium cooking or setting up for events, where burns and lifting injuries may result.
The West Point Safety Office has planned courses for civilian employees for 2011-12. Classes for civilians include back/lifting safety, accident avoidance, electrical safety and forklift safety.
"This course was just for supervisors, but there will be ongoing courses for civilians," Keith Katz, garrison safety manager, said. "There are a few online safety courses that civilians are required to take; the OSHA employee safety class, Corporate Risk Management and the Army Accident Avoidance course. We are teaching the class as well for those employees without computer access."
For those with internet access, visit https://safety.army.mil and click on distance learning on the left side. To find the most recent training schedule at West Point to include newly added courses, visit http://www-internal.usma.army.mil/safety/safety_training.htm.
The civilian safety courses not only teach employees what to watch for regarding risks, but also how to use safety equipment.
"Respiratory equipment is equipment specific to the risk," Katz said. "Some are for different types of dust or particles. Not all eye rinses are used for chemicals."
Part of safety training is teaching employees the correct way to use safety equipment as well as the proper way to work with machines and equipment employee's use. Katz said slipping and falling accidents were the injuries seen most often at West Point until recently.
"Now we are seeing injuries related to moving computers and office equipment in the form of back injuries and sprains," he said.
The safety office recently instituted a safety store where employees can buy protective clothing and other safety products. The safety store is funded by the Garrison and employees can use their CAC cards.
"We used to see a lot of cuts on left fingers with cooks," Katz said. "Most people are right-handed and cut with their right hand and hold food with their left. We provided all the cooks with a Kevlar glove to protect the hand from cuts. Since we did that, the incidents of cuts have disappeared."
The safety store includes first aid kits, burn kits, personal protective equipment, goggles, earplugs and automatic external defibrillators and batteries. Any collateral duty safety officer who is appointed on orders or supervisory personnel can obtain equipment and supplies from the safety store. A CAC card and a signed DA Form 1687 is all that is needed.