Every time there is another serious workplace injury in the news, the story is often shocking – and preventable.
You may have heard that OSHA issued Ohio-based BEF Foods heavy fines after a worker sustained a partial arm amputation and major injuries because the company failed to lock down power to an auger during a lockout/tagout procedure. You may have seen a story on the news about a deadly steam pipe explosion that killed two workers in West Haven, Connecticut, or the gas leak that injured 12 workers and killed six in Gainesville, Georgia.
What do they all have in common? For one, many of these incidents can be prevented by following safety best practices. Secondly, workplace injuries cost the employer an astronomical amount:
- Work injury costs to U.S. employers was $171 billion in 2019
- On average, businesses would be liable for $1,100 per employee
- Deaths from workplace injury estimated at $1,220,000, the costliest of all factors
For every medically consulted injury your company encounters, you can immediately assume a cost of $42,000 added to your bottom line. How can employers reduce the number of employee work-related injuries, cut costs, and even save lives?
8 Tips for Reducing Work Injuries
Employers, with a little help from OSHA, have generally done a nice job reducing the number of preventable accidents and injuries in the workplace. By 2017, employers had cut the number of workplace injuries in half compared to 2003. These signs of progress may have saved lives, but they didn’t cut costs, which have steadily risen as the cost of healthcare in the U.S. has skyrocketed.
With the human and financial cost of even one workplace injury becoming a drain on any size company, it is essential that employers create an effective safety culture. We have a few tips for how employers can mitigate the risk of a job-site accident.
1. Create a continuous improvement model for a safety-first culture.
Organizations must create an environment where reporting unsafe working conditions is a cultural imperative. You can facilitate this by forming a safety and continuous improvement committee tasked with training employees and creating messages that keep this issue top of mind. They should conduct regular safety surveys, facilitate staff training, and monitor the effectiveness of your company’s safety initiatives.
2. Keep up on the latest OSHA safety rules.
Even if your company is too small to have a workplace safety officer, someone should be responsible for reviewing changes to OSHA rules. Think about it; every time you purchase new industrial equipment or change how tasks are accomplished in your business, it puts you at risk of a safety violation and increases your risk for injury.
3. Avoid safety shortcuts.
Train your teams in the “why” behind the important safety rules you have in place to protect your staff. If your employees understand what could happen if the rules are shortcutted, they will be less likely to skip a procedure that could save them from harm. Managers should be trained to watch their employees follow the rules for every machine and tool every single time. The alternative could cost you thousands and change the life of your employee in unthinkable ways.
4. Enforce breaks.
Fatigue is a significant contributor to workplace injury. About 13% of workplace injuries are caused by sleep problems costing employers around $400 billion. Missed workdays, lower productivity, and increased health problems along with workplace injury all stem from a simple lack of sleep and employee fatigue. Employers, however, should do more than just enforce employee breaks, they should create risk management systems that blend training and education along with workplaces that value true work/life balance.
5. Use proper gear.
OSHA reports that 84% of fatal head injuries are sustained by employees that fail to wear the proper head protection on the job. Personal protective equipment (PPE) protects your employees from environmental hazards. Without these important tools your employees can experience:
- Blindness or eye injury from caustic chemicals
- Feet and head injury from falling objects
- Hand cuts or other injury from sharp objects
- Hearing loss from exposure to occupational noise
- Lung damage from breathing toxic fumes
6. Use the right tools for the job.
Hitching a ride on the front of a forklift is not the right use of this dangerous tool. However, this is just one of the common workplace actions that can cause serious injury. Workers in many types of fields rely upon the use of all kinds of tools, from hand-held saws to heavy machinery. Failing to use the right tools for the job is just as risky as not following safety protocols when using heavy equipment.
7. Improve organizational ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the study of human efficiency in the workplace. A significant disruptor of human efficiency are the musculoskeletal disorders (MSKs) that plague our workplace. Overexertion and bodily reactions are the leading cause of workplace injuries today. This includes repetitive motion injuries which impact more than 1.8 million workers in the U.S. each year. Employers can reduce the frequency of these injuries by teaching employees how to properly lift heavy items. They can also provide fatigue mats for workers to stand on or redesign office workstations with standing desks to ease back strain or keyboards better suited to ease tired hands. Employers can also encourage early reporting of MSKs to help slow the progression of symptoms and cut down on back strain or other serious injuries.
8. Leverage telemedicine remote injury care.
The data shows that the majority of workplace injuries are musculoskeletal in nature. The problem is that our response is typically disproportionate to the injury that occurred. Because most companies do not have an on-site health nurse available to cover all or even some of their shift work, the typical response to a lower back strain or a sprained ankle or other types of non-urgent MSKs is to take the person to the ER. The ER remains the most expensive point of care in any healthcare care system and it is overkill for carpal tunnel, a strained knee, or anything less than a broken bone or something more serious. Once the injured worker arrives in the ER, it typically becomes an OSHA recordable event, no matter how minor the injury.
OrthoLive’s Remote Injury Care subscription service brings a clinical professional to your job site virtually over a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. That medical professional can immediately assess the injury to determine if it is serious enough to go to the ER or if a more minor treatment would be sufficient. It’s a way to respond quickly and professionally to a workplace incident, while also counseling the worker on ways to lessen the risk that an injury will repeat itself.
Talk with our team today about how we can help you improve your track record of on-the-job worker safety.
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