It likely comes as no surprise that Montana has one of the worst workplace safety records in the nation. It’s been covered by most news outlets in the state and captured the attention of political and community leaders.

In Montana, workplace tragedies stretch across genders, age groups, industries and geography. They affect every business in the form of higher workers’ compensation rates. They devastate far too many Montana families, personally and financially.

Our workplace incidence rate is 47 percent higher than the national average. Our duration of claims stretches much longer than average. And our average cost per medical case for workplace injuries is 55 percent above that of the rest of the nation.

Reversing these trends is vital for the financial, emotional and physical health of our citizens. And that begins by creating safer workplaces. Workplaces with comprehensive safety plans and safety committees that routinely work to improve safety. Workplaces that put safety first, whether they’re running heavy equipment or doing data entry.

But most important of all, it requires focused attention from workers themselves. Each of us is responsible for creating a culture of safety, following rules, wearing personal protective equipment and improving conditions when necessary. It only takes a momentary lapse or little short cut to change a life forever. As a state, we’ve had far too many of those.

It’s time we all put safety at the top of the “this is important” list.