Every year, thousands of hours of productivity and billions of dollars are lost due to accidents at the workplace. More than 2 million workers a year are injured to the point where they are unable to work and require continuous medical care. The majority of these accidents, however, are avoidable.
It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe working environment, just as it is the employee’s responsibility to actively work to maintain the safety of the working environment. If you ensure that you and your employees are following a few basic steps, you will save a good deal of money in medical bills and other expenses. Here are some practices that will help ensure a safe environment for your workers:
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Never try to rush a project. You may think you can save valuable time by cutting corners here and there, but ultimately that sort of attitude only leads to accidents that cost your business money in the long run. You’ll want to take your time completing projects, always making sure that you are following instructions closely and not attempting any work you are not comfortable doing. If there are any directions that you don’t understand, make sure they are clarified before moving on!
Many injuries are caused by workers attempting to go quickly without fully grasping a project. Hold a monthly or biweekly meeting for employees to bring any safety concerns to your attention. An anonymous suggestion box could assuage the concerns of employees who don’t want to speak up about their concerns in person.
2. Be Diligent about Maintenance
Always ensure that workspaces are properly maintained, never allowing areas to become run-down and unsafe. Make sure that work environments aren’t cluttered and unkempt.
Poorly organized workplaces can lead to tripping hazards, slips, and even fires. Employers might be tempted to save on the costs of fixing problems on their own, but in the long run, this will only cost more money. Certain things can also easily be overlooked in a busy workplace, but diligence should always be required.
Preventative maintenance will go a long way towards ensuring workplace safety. Always make sure you have a plan when doing maintenance. Regularly scheduled inspections, a clear idea of who is responsible for maintenance work, and a supervisor who signs off to make sure maintenance is finished are all essential practices. Make sure that fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are regularly inspected and replaced. Once again, it’s important that employees are always able to report any problems that might exist.
3. Make Sure Company Vehicles are Safe
Accidents in company vehicles cost employers an average of $60 billion every year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These expenses come in the form of medical care, legal expenses, property damages, and lost productivity. The average accident costs an employer $16,500. When there is an injury, this cost increases to $74,000 and a fatality can increase this cost to $500,000.
These accidents are often preventable. It is therefore in the best interests of employers to do everything they can to keep their employees safe while driving. The first step to safety of course is to provide company vehicles with regular maintenance. Always invest in the safest vehicles possible for your company. Drivers should check brake lights, turn signals, tire pressure and gas levels before traveling. Employers should always enforce seat belt use and never require workers to drive for excessive hours or allow cell phone use while driving. Never put workers in a position where they have to violate the speed limits to meet their quotas in their allotted hours.
4. Be Ready for any Weather
Workers can be exposed to extreme weather conditions whether they work indoors or outdoors. Be prepared for either very hot or very cold conditions. If it’s cold, make sure your employers dress in layers, taking care to cover their hands, heads, feet and faces to avoid frostbite. If it’s wet, a change of clothes should be kept on hand. Employers can also install heating devices on-site to help deal with freezing conditions.
If, on the other hand, it’s unusually hot, ensure that workers are drinking plenty of fluids and wearing loose fitting comfortable clothing. Cooling devices such as fans can be installed as well, and windows should be kept open to ensure proper ventilation.
5. Invest in Personal Protective Equipment
Employers should provide personal protective equipment that is suited to the job that employees are doing. They should also take care to ensure employees are properly trained in their use. Loud environments, for example, require ear muffs or ear plugs to prevent hearing damage. Hard hats should be provided in any area that might be prone to falling objects, while safety shoes will help prevent items from injuring the feet if they fall. Gloves will help to prevent cuts, scrapes and punctures; they will also prevent burns and chemical absorption. Goggles may be needed to protect the face from flying particles or chemicals.
It may seem like common sense, but these are all examples of minor expenses and precautions that can save an entire company from bankruptcy. All of this goes a long way to ensuring your employees are safe at work – with or without workers’ compensation.