Safety is the #1 way to reduce workers’ compensation costs. This timeless tip is more valuable today than ever. A reduction in injuries translates into a reduction in costs. Direct injury costs include: insurance premiums; or, if self-insured or holding a high deductible, medical and claim costs. Most employers know that their safety record or “experience modification” determines their insurance premium. Adding to the experience incentive is the fact that a good year (or a bad year) stays with you for three years. This provides all the more reason to think about making changes for the long haul.
A reduction in injuries also translates into a reduction in indirect costs. The cost of your insurance premium is easy to see. Less visible are the costs of hiring, retraining, overtime, loss of productivity and other costs associated with work injuries. Studies indicate that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers realize $3 - $10 in cost savings (direct and indirect costs).
Make workplace safety a high priority for your business. Most employers think they run a safe business. Consider for a moment what you take pride of in your business. Quality product? Dependable service? Professional manner? Your business philosophy is emphasized in many ways. You refer to it when you hire, train, build, manufacture, supervise and market. Consider including a “safety philosophy” in your business. Safety does not simply mean encouraging workers to work safely. Safety requires a comprehensive approach. It may mean all of the following:
- Hire safe workers, mention it is important to you at the start of a job
- Educate workers about safety measures; importance of following rules
- Train workers for new job duties
- Monitor to ensure safety procedures are followed; equipment used
- Enforce safety measures; provide consequences for failure to follow
- Discuss safety – all the time, at staff meetings; performance evaluations
- Assess job requirements - define physical capabilities for specific jobs
- Place workers in jobs only if they possess the necessary physical capabilities
- Provide personal protective equipment (i.e. safety glasses, boots, respirators)
- Review injuries; figure out what went wrong; why; try to fix for the future
- Identify weaknesses – identify your most frequent injuries then develop strategies to address your common injuries
- Review work practices; overtime or staffing practices may increase injuries
- Reward safety; recognize or reward worker/team/shift who assists or initiates training or monitoring; develop risks list or warning posters
Safety should be part of every aspect of your business. Simply telling workers to work safely is not enough.
Start at the beginning. One study indicated that 40% of work injuries happen to workers in their first 6 months on the job. This points out the value of experience and the need for training targeted at new workers, training when job duties change, and a lot more education and safety supervision for new workers.
Don’t just talk about safety, reinforce it. Safety awareness is one small step toward reducing injuries. Follow it up with all staff, in all possible ways. Working safely should be an integral part of your business; it should be part of your hiring, training, education, monitoring, staffing, staff meetings, and performance evaluations, to name a few.
Statistics point to some safety weaknesses. Cuts to the hand or thumb make up several of the most common work injuries in Vermont. These figures point out a need for greater use of safety gloves and everything that goes along with them: glove availability, required use, education, training, supervision, consistent enforcement…..the list goes on.
Eye injuries rank as our second most common injury. Again, proper use of safety goggles should reduce or eliminate eye injuries. The mere availability of glasses or goggles is not enough. Comprehensive attention to their use is required.
Focus on your workplace injuries. Every business is unique and so are your injuries. Depending on your work, you may need to pay extra attention to: ergonomics; appropriate staffing to avoid over-exertion; ladder safety; eye safety; ventilation; breaks; hearing protection, body mechanics or work site safety, just to name a few.
Review your work practices. Common work practices may lead to work injuries. Consider your use of overtime work. For strenuous or repetitive work, adding overtime hours can only compound “overuse”. Hiring staff or part time staff may actually reduce overuse or over-exertion injuries. Staffing levels may similarly impact injuries. When a large job requires several workers, insufficient staffing can encourage workers to do more than they safely should; resulting in injuries.
Take a critical look at your safety practices. Could you do more? Most of us have room for improvement. It can save you money.