Despite declining rates in recent years, Kentucky has had an unusually high number of manufacturing fatalities thus far in fiscal year 2019.  According to the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, manufacturing is the 5th most fatal industry in Kentucky and has consistently ranked in the top 5 since 2014. We are on pace to set a new record high for occupational fatalities in 2019 if the trend continues.

The good news for Kentucky is that 2018 saw a year of continued growth with manufacturing and logistics leading the way. The outlook for 2019 is shaping up the same way.  The Commonwealth’s economy is growing and expanding into various advanced manufacturing sectors. “Kentucky has moved to the forefront of national influence, steadily gaining recognition as America’s center for engineering and manufacturing excellence,” according to Governor Bevin (Lane Report, 2019). De-regulation and the passage of pro-business legislation contribute to attracting new manufacturing opportunities to Kentucky, as well as expansion projects of existing manufacturing facilities. As of June 2019, the number of manufacturing facilities had grown to 2,461 with over 258,00 full-time employees. However, this growth hasn’t come without a cost as we have seen with the increased number of manufacturing fatalities. In response to the unfavorable forecast of work-related fatalities, the Labor Cabinet established a Fatality Prevention Task Force to promote and emphasize workplace safety.

Nonfatal occupational injury and illness rates in Kentucky have also declined in recent years, but Kentucky is still higher than the national rate. This isn’t good for Kentucky workers or business owners. In today’s competitive marketplace, Kentucky businesses need to attract and retain a skilled workforce. Focusing on workplace safety will not only protect workers but can also increase a company’s bottom line.

There are many costs associated with fatal and nonfatal injuries. Direct costs include workers’ comp claims, medical expenses, increased insurance premiums, and legal fees. Indirect costs include lost productivity, time and resources to train replacement employees, conduct accident investigations, and repair damaged equipment/property. Other costs include employee morale, absenteeism, turnover rates, and the negative publicity that can damage a company’s reputation. By creating a positive safety culture, workers are healthier and happier which translates into lower incident rates which means more $$$ in the bank.

SMG offers a wide variety of health and safety consulting services. If you need assistance with OSHA compliance, reducing violations, identifying and controlling hazards, re-thinking and updating existing training programs, IH testing and sampling, or going beyond compliance to build a positive safety culture, we can help.

Jami Arnold is a health and safety consultant at Smith Management Group. Jami can be reached at jamia@smithmanage.com .