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September 14, 2004
NIOSH Update:

Requiring Safety Belt Use is Key Employer Policy for Preventing Job Vehicle Deaths, NIOSH Says

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Contact: Fred Blosser (202) 401-3749

Providing safety belts in company or agency vehicles and requiring their use on the job are critical steps that employers should take to prevent work-related employee injuries and fatalities from motor vehicle crashes, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended today.

"A mandatory belt use policy is the single most important road safety policy an employer can implement and enforce," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., in remarks prepared for the OSHA/NHTSA Motor Vehicle Safety Symposium. Dr. Howard was one of the opening speakers at the symposium, sponsored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Dr. Howard noted that in the general population, use of safety belts saved nearly 12,000 lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2000, and could have prevented an additional 9,000 fatalities had the victims been wearing safety belts, according to NHTSA estimates. Belt use also prevented almost 325,000 moderate to severe injuries in 2000, and could have prevented another 143,000 such injuries had the victims been wearing safety belts, NHTSA also estimated. Although these estimates apply to crashes in the general population, it is likely that safety belts would be equally effective in preventing work-related injuries and fatalities. In both cases, the basic risk of injury is associated with the physical forces of a crash, not necessarily with any factor unique to the use of a vehicle for carrying out the duties of a job.

Injuries resulting from non-use of safety belts are estimated by NHTSA to cost employers more than $1 billion each year in health insurance and other direct costs, Dr. Howard further noted. For every employee involved in an on-the-job crash, the direct cost to the employer averaged $27,750 if the employee was not wearing a safety belt, compared with $11,310 if the employee was wearing a safety belt.

"State belt laws are not an acceptable substitute for an employer policy, as not all states have primary enforcement of their belt laws," Dr. Howard also said.

Dr. Howard also reiterated NIOSH findings and recommendations that:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S.
  • Motor vehicle safety on the job is an important public health issue, not just an occupational safety issue.
  • Employers are in a strategic position to promote road safety on the job, which in turn advances motor vehicle safety in general.

For further information on NIOSH recommendations to prevent work-related motor vehicle fatalities and injuries, visit the NIOSH web page at www.cdc.gov/niosh/injury/traumamv.html

 
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