Our workplaces and roads are safer now than they have been in two generations. Reported worker deaths in America declined 29 percent from 6,632 in 1994 to 4,690 in 2010. During the same period, total traffic-related deaths fell by 20 percent, from 40,716 to 32,708. The progress on both fronts is impressive considering the growth of the American workforce and the increase in the number of licensed drivers over the past several decades.
Less impressive is the progress made in reducing the proportion of alcohol-related workplace and traffic fatalities. Forensic evidence collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that alcohol-related traffic fatalities as a percentage of total traffic fatalities have improved only modestly, from approximately 41 percent to 38 percent, between 1994 and 2010. Alcohol also remains the third-leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States behind tobacco use and poor diet/lack of exercise.
One of the few workplace studies conducted in this area, not surprisingly and not coincidentally, suggested that 40 percent of all industrial fatalities (and 47 percent of industrial injuries) are also linked to alcohol consumption.
The 40 percent linkage to alcohol in both workplace and road fatalities is strong evidence that alcohol abuse is pervasive. Forty percent is also a powerful statistic to impress upon management, safety professionals, and our workforces the extent of the problem and the corresponding opportunity for improvement. Workplace alcohol abuse need not be accepted as an inevitable cost of doing business.