Accident Prevention: Workplace Safety Equals Workplace Savings
While employee safety is important from a personal standpoint, there’s also a financial cost to workplace accidents that result in lost productivity, insurance claims and even regulatory agency fines.
Along with the direct costs of an accident, such as paying the salary of an injured worker and potential workers compensation premium increases, a company faces indirect expenses including lost production while an accident is cleaned up, overtime for other workers and the cost of hiring and training replacement workers.
Finally, the financial impact an injury to a co-worker has on employee morale makes safety and accident prevention important to risk management for small business owners. A safe workplace saves the company money, improving its bottom line.
It’s important to set a tone that not only encourages safe behavior in the workplace, but also helps employees understand that safety is a central part of your company’s policies and culture. Talking about safety, only when your insurance renewal is near, creates the impression that safety isn’t the priority it should be.
Start With a Survey
A critical step in assessing safety hazards is identifying them. Grab a notepad and conduct a wall-to-wall survey of your workplace (indoors and out) to list any potential hazards or areas where workers can injure themselves. Look for areas where workers can trip, fall or otherwise cause an accident. If your company uses chemicals, make sure they’re being stored properly. Check to see that unused tools are put away, and that your machinery maintenance is up to date.
If you need professional help in surveying your workplace for risk, your company’s insurance carrier has safety professionals to identify potential hazards or areas that need improvement.
Similarly, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a confidential, on-site consultation service that’s administered separately from its enforcement division. While many employers may be reluctant to bring in an OSHA official voluntarily, having a confidential consultation about needed safety improvements can be more effective (and less expensive) than having to deal with regulators after a workplace accident.
Equipment manufacturers are also concerned about the possibility of their products being used improperly, so most are willing to share helpful safety and engineering information with their customers.
Another helpful step is working with your insurance advisors, OSHA or other resources to identify industry-specific risks your company faces. The risk and regulatory profile of a construction company, for example, is different from that of the corner deli. Understanding risk is an important step in reducing workplace accidents.
Train For Safety
Effective employee training is the cornerstone of an accident prevention program. Training reduces, not only the number and severity of workplace hazards, it also reduces employee stress related to their workplace safety.
Employees and managers should understand how to use machinery or other tools safely and properly, and should also be taught the importance of using personal protection equipment safety glasses and ear cups, for example.
New employees must be taught to use machinery safely. Supervisors and veteran employees should also be encouraged to watch for signs of safety complacency, such as leaving unused tools lying around or allowing waste to pile up.
Employees should also be taught how to respond after an accident. For example, they should know the location of first-aid kits and fire extinguishers to help prevent minor incidents from escalating into major problems.
Your company should encourage employees to suggest potential corrections to possible workplace hazards. Not only could their experience lead to helpful ideas, but involving them in workplace safety increases pride and attention to safety-related details.
No small business owner wants an employee hurt on the job. So play it safe and keep accidents from happening. Safety is the only way to go.