Workplace Safety Step 1: Be aware of the 2015 OSHA reporting changes

The reporting rules have changed for Colorado employers. Previously, along with all work-related fatalities, employers were required to report work-related incidents resulting in the hospitalization of three or more employees and fatalities; now, reports must be filed for the inpatient hospitalization of one or more employees, as well as in cases of amputations, loss of an eye, and fatalities.

Find more information on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reporting requirements here.

Workplace Safety Step 2: Recognize that falls are the leading cause of injuries and are costly

The leading cause of injury hospitalizations in Colorado is falls, according to the State of Colorado government website. Falls account for nearly half – 49% – of all injury hospitalizations in Colorado.

Falls in the workplace resulting in inpatient hospitalization impact Colorado employers in a number of ways: lost workdays, decreased productivity, additional direct and indirect costs and the potential for an OSHA visit (see new reporting requirements).

In 2012, falls, slips and trips are listed as the second most common lost-time claim in Colorado, accounting for 22.7% or 6,061 instances, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

It is hard to quantify all the costs resulting from an injury to an employee. Add up the lost workdays during recovery, which could be up to six weeks or more, and consider the impact on all the employees trying to fill the gaps. You’re looking at decreased productivity, plus the cost of the OSHA violation if one is found during a subsequent inspection violation.

Workplace Safety Step 3: Put an injury prevention program in place

Employers who actively adhere to a workplace safety program can limit the occurrence of reportable injuries, reduce costs, maintain compliance, avoid additional risk and develop a proactive, positive culture of safety in the workplace.

The first step in addressing injuries is to prioritize prevention by budgeting for training. The best strategy to reduce falls and limit exposure to violations is to be proactive. There is expense involved in both proactive and reactive strategies.

By being proactive and establishing a budget for safety education and training, and creating a culture of safety, you are reducing the likelihood of injuries. Being reactive and addressing environmental and educational needs after an accident can be far more costly.

The effectiveness of injury and illness prevention programs in the workplace is well documented. Research cited by OSHA demonstrates that such programs are effective in transforming workplace culture; leading to reductions in injuries, illnesses and fatalities; lowering workers’ compensation and other costs; improving morale and communication; enhancing image and reputation; and improving processes, products and services.

OSHA estimates that the implementation of injury and illness prevention programs will reduce injuries by 15 percent to 35 percent for employers who do not now have safety and health programs.

In Colorado, there is an additional incentive to establish an injury and illness prevention program. Employers who demonstrate that they have a program in place for at least one year can be certified under the Premium Cost Containment Program, which allows them a 10% discount on their Worker’s Compensation insurance premiums.

Businesses that implemented a prevention program saw a 23% cumulative annual reduction in accidents and reduced accident costs between 58% and 62%.

Workplace Safety Step 4: Limit risk due to subsequent OSHA inspections

Non-fatal fall incidents may have slipped under OSHA’s radar in the past, particularly if there was only one employee involved. With the new requirements in place, employers are reporting all incidents that require hospitalization, amputations and the loss of an eye, increasing the likelihood of a post-incident OSHA inspection, which can lead to other citations, for things as simple as electrical cords.

Workplace Safety Step 5: Consider hiring experts to achieve results

Every business should strive for a culture of safety in the workplace. Safety consultants can evaluate the potential risks within any work environment and help businesses improve compliance and safety; create comprehensive, individualized safety programs and manuals; and provide industry-specific training.