A workplace safety program is one of your protections from workplace injury losses. A disabling injury in your workplace can cost $25,000, $100,000 or even more. Most employers see these costs through higher Workers’ Comp premiums.
Insurance companies may pay direct losses due to injuries. But indirect losses can be one to ten times more than the direct cost of injury. And indirect losses eat into your profits.
Indirect losses (the ones you pay) include:
- Lost wages paid to the injured
- Lost time spent by the supervisors, co-workers, clerical staff, and management on post-accident related activities
- Loss of business prestige and worker-employer relationships.
To make up for these losses, an increase in sales and production levels is required, or comparable cuts in other areas are necessary to balance these tremendous costs.
Implementing a Workplace Safety Program
A safety program is successful only if it has the support of top management. This is the most important single factor. If your safety program isn’t working…the first place to look is management. The top person in your firm (president or manager) must initiate and stand behind your safety program.
Educate your employees on the benefits of a written safety program. Verbal direction isn’t enough. Do you update these rules as your company grows and progresses? Or do you still have the same rules you started with 20 years ago?
Appoint a Workplace Safety Supervisor
Make it his or her job to keep a record of the number of accidents, and near accidents, each month. Include the direct cost of each accident with this.
A successful supervisor using these records can show you the financial benefits of a properly administered safety program.
A Workplace Safety Program Test
How do you rate your firm’s safety program? Can you say “Yes” to all of the following?
1. Does your firm do thorough accident investigations? All accidents or “near accidents” should be investigated by a person who is not involved. Find out exactly what happened. (Example: Step one, Did the machine malfunction?
Step two, What caused the machine to malfunction? Was the employee negligent? What caused the employee to be negligent?) Don’t stop with the first step. That’s like putting your shoes on and then forgetting to tie them. Somewhere down the line there will be another injury which you could have prevented if you completed step two — find out exactly where the fault was.
2. Do you determine the right causes (also called the “root causes”)? Why are you having close calls and injuries? Look for the hidden causes — not the obvious ones. The solution isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. The old saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees” applies here.
3. Do you accelerate investigations? Move in quickly. Investigate the scene of the accident immediately. If you wait to talk to the injured and witnesses, details become blurred and inaccurate.
4. Are you, and other managers, good listeners? Employees may be reluctant to say how they feel if you sound like you have all the answers. Ask for their thoughts on the accident and how would they go about correcting it.
5. Do you look at accidents from all angles? Studying the accident from only one way could mean you’re missing an important factor. Try looking at the accident backwards. A different viewpoint is always helpful.
6. Are reports documented to senior management? A written report with the investigator’s findings goes to the senior management. To prevent similar accidents, include your written recommendations as described in #7.
7. Do you make written recommendations? Recommendations are necessary so you and employees can make corrections. In the same report, request approval as described in #8.
8. Do you request approvals quickly? When the accidents are severe, approval of the recommendations often is given immediately, to rectify the cause of the accident. But if the accident is not so severe, the recommendation is sometimes put on the back burner and forgotten. This is a mistake!
9. Do you conduct reviews? Accident reports require regular reviewing. Do this at your monthly safety meeting. It makes the employees aware of the circumstances, and at the same time, makes them see accidents as being real.