America’s private-industry employers reported nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2016, a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time employees, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the overall number of injuries was fewer than the previous year, it still costs employers money. A lot of money. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that American companies pay nearly $1 billion a week in workers’ compensation costs.While some injuries can’t be avoided, companies should continue to take a proactive approach to keeping their employees safe.
Nicole Chaudet, Executive Director of Product Execution at Health Fitness Corporation, pointed out the benefits of workplace programs designed to help employees prevent and treat injuries. “First and foremost, an injury and prevention program can help you create a work culture where safety comes first,” Chaudet wrote in Property Casualty 360. “This means addressing the three critical components of injury prevention: the work (through education and training programs), the work environment (through ergonomics), and the worker (through physical/occupational therapy and work conditioning programs).”
Proactive moves can save money
If your company is looking to reduce injuries and illnesses at work, programs can include:
• An ergonomic overhaul of the workspace, with a special focus on reducing repetitive motion, or stress, injuries.
• Keeping workspaces uncluttered. Employees are creatures of habit and take the same walking route through the office or factory while either working or heading to lunch or the restroom. Unexpected obstacles, like repair equipment and unassembled furniture, should be moved out of a walkway, if possible, and always clearly marked with the proper signage.
• An effort to reduce employee turnover. “High turnover is definitely among the most costly to any business,” Chaudet wrote. “Injury and prevention programs can help create a safer workplace, which leads to healthier employees and fewer missed workdays—and, as a result, less turnover.”
• Allow sick workers to stay home. As the flu virus strengthened this year, a considerable amount of workers caught the virus because one or more of their infected co-workers came to the workplace instead of staying home to take care of themselves until the virus passed. In a story for the Detroit Free Press, Frank Witsil offers the following suggestions for employers faced with numerous flu-stricken employees:
◦ Increase shifts to reduce the number of people in the office.
◦ Hold conference calls instead of meetings.
◦ Allow more telecommuting.
◦ Assure sick workers they can stay home without fear of losing their jobs.
◦ Allow parents to care for a sick child.
◦ Provide no-touch trashcans, hand sanitizers, and alcohol wipes.
◦ Encourage employees to wash hands, avoid handshakes, and even wear masks.
While not all accidents are avoidable, today’s smart employers know that a few simple precautions can go a long way in keeping workers safe and productive, as well as help save a few dollars. Whether it’s an additional class, some direct signage, or a revised approach to sick days, a few changes can help improve employee safety and company’s bottom line.