Workplace injuries have a profound cost on productivity. According to the National Safety Council , work injuries carried an economic cost of over $40 million in 2009. These lost profits and lost productivity translate into a slightly lower standard of living. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates workplace injuries cost businesses $215 billion in 2008.
Legal costs and workers’ compensation insurance costs drive up the price businesses pay for work-related injuries.
The business holds primary responsibility for reducing the risk of workplace injuries. The prospect of so much lost profit and extra legal and insurance costs is a powerful incentive. Employers serve their workers well if they prove that they are taking the appropriate measures.
These measures depend on the specific industry of the business.
For example, a steel mill could take steps to improve worker safety above and beyond the usual requirements. Historically, steel mills and blast furnaces have been the most dangerous places for workers.
Employers save themselves money and make greater profits when they are proactive about workplace injury risks. Workers who see the efforts their companies make for them are less likely to file lawsuits or complaints. The employees will also be healthier and more productive, which means potentially higher wages.
The easiest way to prevent workplace injuries is to hire a safety professional to inspect the premises. A new profession of "industrial hygiene" has emerged and is dedicated to keeping workplaces safe and workers happy and healthy.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene have begun putting together certification programs for industrial hygienists. Other organizations and societies like the National Association of Safety Professionals or the American Society of Safety Engineers can recommend safety professionals as well.
Workers and employers can also request an inspection from the local state regulatory agency. The job of these regulators is usually to identify small things like faulty lights or leaks that can easily be repaired. Observing the behavior of employees and checking out previous workers’ compensation claims can help identify issues to be resolved.
Machinery, heights and chemicals are not the only sources of workplace injury.
Less obvious injuries like muscle strains also cause problems. Ergonomics can prevent the majority of injuries from ever becoming serious. Ergonomics, or human engineering, is about designing a workspace to best fit the worker. In practice, this translates into making sure a comfortable setting is maintained.
Carpal tunnel syndrome and back problems are the two most common injuries. Install adjustable chairs and computer monitors so that workers can change their workspace to fit their needs. In warehouses, install the shelving in such a way so that workers are not required to strain themselves in order to handle inventory.
Setting up a safety committee may also be necessary.
Such a committee would be tasked with looking for and reporting any hazards when they occur. The committee would also be responsible for displaying relevant safety information in easy-to-see locations. Finally, the committee could assist in documenting workplace injuries as they take place.
Documenting an injury as it occurs also displays good faith to both workers and insurance companies.
The insurer sees that the company is honest and not trying to hide anything. This helps the company with any legal complications that arise. Contrary to the reputation of businesses as greedy, businesses spend a lot of money keeping their workers safe and secure. It is to their advantage as much as to the workers.
Reducing the risk of workplace injury helps keep a business running smoothly and contributes to worker productivity.