September 13, 2016 | By Kelly Mansfield |
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Workplace injuries accounted to $170 billion (OSHA) of costs paid by small businesses in the US. Direct expenses associated with worker injuries include medical care, lost wages, overtime, and additional training and human resource expenses. Further, indirect costs such as decreased productivity, lower morale, higher workers’ compensation premiums, damage to reputation or brand, and increased turnover quickly add up resulting in lost profits.
However, businesses can take a proactive approach to preventing worker injuries in order to reduce the costs involved with injuries. Here are 5 steps that a business can take today to reduce worker injuries:
Commit to safety and engage employees. Commitment to safety should begin with owners and upper management team members, and should be communicated clearly throughout the organization. Managers promote safety by following safety guidelines themselves and by modeling safe practices at all times, while encouraging employees to do the same.
Responsibility for safety should be assigned to appropriate team members. Safety responsibilities should also be included in employee job descriptions.
Internal meetings further increase awareness of safety initiatives and allow for open discussion on the importance of safety in the workplace. Initially, a meeting should be held to communicate management’s commitment to keeping employees safe on the job.
Analyze current operations and workplace hazards. OSHA offers several resources to assist employers in assessing safety. Self-inspection checklists are provided in OSHA’s Small Business Handbook and OSHA has an on-site confidential consultation program to assist businesses with analyzing workplace safety. Business insurance companies often offer loss control services to help with identifying potential exposures and reducing workplace injuries, and often have credits or discounts available for companies who show a commitment to safety.
Develop and implement an action plan to lower hazards. After safety issues are identified, implement a corrective action plan. Assign responsibility for follow through to appropriate team members, and use action steps and deadlines that can measured. Document hazards that were identified and the steps taken to prevent future injuries.
When an injury occurs, immediately perform an investigation to determine what happened and how the injury may have been prevented. Make appropriate changes to procedures in order to prevent future injuries.
Provide training to employees. It is imperative that employees understand how to perform their jobs safely. Consistent training should be provided that instructs employees on safety policies, safe practices, and actions to take in the event of injury. OSHA offers a large inventory of training resources. Insurance companies also often provide resources for safety training.
Monitor the safety program and adjust as necessary. Inevitably, industries change and procedures need to adjusted. Make it a point to revisit your safety program at least semi-annually and make adjustments as necessary.
By committing to safety and taking steps to protect workers from injury, businesses can reduce the costs associated with workplace injuries. The “ounce of prevention” taken today could result in future profits that are retained and invested rather than spent on worker injury costs.
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