2016: A Year in Safety

During 2016, Americans encountered new safety risks in some industries and fixed problems in others. Here’s a review of the safety successes and concerns which rose to prominence this year.


Healthcare is an industry where both success and challenges were found in 2016. The trend toward value-based reimbursement means that hospitals and care providers are being held accountable financially when a patient’s outcome isn’t successful following a procedure. However, infections and superbacteria also continue to pose a huge safety threat to patients. The industry is concerned enough that it was even decided to no longer manufacture antibacterial soap to prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Medical Devices and Medicines

Dozens of medical devices were recalled in 2016, from defibrillators to catheters, hip replacements to diabetic test strips. Unfortunately the need for these recalls sometimes only becomes clear after the products cause issues for patients. The same applies to medicines recalled this year. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter products were both recalled in 2016 for a wide range of reasons like improper labeling, unapproved or harmful contents, or because test results showed too wide a range of reactions and outcomes, like asthma and stomach drug Virtus. Everyday talcum powder also made the news as a possible contributor to ovarian cancer

Electronic Devices and Appliances

2016 was an explosive year for devices—literally. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, certain models of Samsung washing machines, even Tesla’s cutting edge electric vehicle all made the news when they exploded during use. Many industry experts believe poorly-made lithium ion batteries create the risk because they overheat during charging or use. In the case of the washing machines, overloading may have contributed to the explosions, though Samsung didn’t elaborate.

Food and Product Recalls

In 2016, products from IKEA furniture to ice cream and beyond were sold to the public without anyone knowing they posed a risk. While some recalls are due to ingredients in the food or product being undisclosed during production or import, others are instated after illness or injury spreads during consumer use. The Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps years of records about product safety and the injuries and outcomes which result.

Vehicle Recalls

In June of 2016 the death of young Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin had everyone talking about the importance of responding to vehicle recalls. Yelchin was crushed to death in his driveway when the brake on his Jeep, which had been recalled, malfunctioned. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires that vehicle manufacturers inform owners of recalls by mail. However, an Autotrader study this year revealed that 41% of consumers don’t get their recalls addressed because they don’t believe the repairs to be necessary. Luckily most of the time dealerships will still repair the issue when the car is brought in for regular maintenance, but consumers still have a responsibility to react, especially if the problem sounds serious.

Distracted Driving

When it comes to roadway safety in 2016, drivers showed a disturbingly increased tendency to put themselves and others at risk while texting and driving. There were 19,000 traffic deaths in the first six months of 2016 alone, a 9% increase from the fatalities in the first months of 2015. While texting or other distracted driving didn’t necessarily cause all these accidents, it was certainly a contributing factor to many. In good news, many safety features like rear-view cameras, blind spot warning, pedestrian detection, and quick connection to emergency services providers were standard in some form in many 2016 vehicle models.

As we move into 2017, we each must make the resolution to live more safely when it comes to our driving habits, workplace awareness, attention to product recalls, and more. While we can’t prevent every incident, working knowledge of what risks exist in the world is a great place to start.