According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), occupational injuries and illnesses cost U.S. employers $250 billion every year, and OSHA estimates those employers pay nearly $1 billion every week just in workers' compensation costs.
In addition, there are also the indirect costs of workers’ compensation claims such as training for replacement employees, accident investigation, implementing corrective measures, lost productivity, lower employee morale, and absenteeism.
These staggering numbers show just how crucial it is to create a safe work environment. That’s really your first line of defense against workplace injuries and those debilitating costs. But it takes more than just rules and regulations.
Beyond safety rules: getting it in your company’s DNA
It’s no longer enough to merely provide your employees with a list of safety rules or to relegate your company’s safety responsibilities to a safety committee. You need to think beyond safety rules and foster a culture of safety throughout your company. After all, safety is everyone’s responsibility, and everyone has to play a role if you’re going to create a dynamic and effective safety culture. In other words, safety has to be in your company’s DNA.
Where do you start?
For employers in Hawaii, a great template to begin with is with our state’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) set up by the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division (HIOSH). It’s a systematic program that allows employers and employees to collaborate in finding and fixing workplace hazards, and it’s a proven tool for reducing occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
Many businesses have adopted such programs as part of OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) and Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) for small employers. However you design and administer your program, it should include the systematic identification, evaluation, and prevention or control of workplace hazards and the hazards of specific jobs and tasks.
You can find more information on Hawaii’s program at https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/stateprogs/hawaii.html or http://labor.hawaii.gov/hiosh/. But in general, the major elements of an effective program include:
- Management leadership. Establish clear goals and a plan to achieve those goals. Commit the time and resources to building an effective safety culture. Hold all levels of employees responsible AND accountable for carrying out their safety responsibilities as outlined in policies and procedures.>br? Employee buy-in. Include your workers in the development, implementation, and evaluation of the program, workplace inspections, accident investigations, and reporting of hazards.
- Hazard assessment. Thoroughly identify, assess, and document workplace hazards and investigate injuries and illnesses to identify causes.
- Hazard prevention and control. Develop and implement a plan to prioritize and control identified hazards.
- Education. Provide periodic education and training in procedures for reporting injuries and safety concerns, and recognizing and reducing hazards.
- Evaluation and improvement. Conduct periodic reviews of your program to assess its effectiveness, modify as needed to correct problems, and always be on the lookout for ways to improve
The benefits of a strong safety culture
While reducing the occurrence of injuries and associated costs is the main objective of your safety initiatives, getting safety into your company’s DNA pays other dividends too. Fewer accidents and insurance claims can help control insurance premiums and improve industry competitiveness thanks to lower insurance costs and increased insurability. It can also result in higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, greater worker satisfaction, and a significant reputational boost for your company, making your business more attractive to job seekers, customers, and investors.
If you want to get serious about reducing workplace injuries and controlling the associated costs, don’t relegate safety to a list of rules. Get it in your company’s DNA. For information about FICOH’s Risk & Safety Management experts and services, talk to your independent agent. Also, learn about our free OSHA training opportunities.