The High Price of Workplace Danger

By Michael Galvan | 02/17/2016
What you don’t know might be costing your business thousands of dollars.

Dangers are hidden throughout the workplace. Should an injury occur, it can derail productivity and result in pricey medical bills. According to OHSA, the direct cost of a sprain may be over 28,000 dollars, 1 and more serious injuries often run over six figures.

How does an employer identify and mitigate these risks? It all begins with a thorough risk analysis to uncover potential workplace safety hazards and implement quality prevention strategies. Prevention is the very best defense against a work-related injury. The average cost of a minor incident is 16 times higher than the cost of the preventative measure. 2 Preventative safety is therefore a valuable part of any business plan.

A risk analysis begins by examining data from all previous workers’ compensation injuries to look for injury patterns and their associated risk. For example, a high incidence rate of back injuries may mean that an employer should consider installing equipment to lift heavy materials a few feet higher. A hydraulic winch might pay for itself in no time by reducing lower back strain. This sort of simple solution can prevent serious injuries and time away from work.

Employees can also help to identify key risk areas, so maintaining an open dialogue between management and employees can be beneficial in injury prevention. Be sure to establish processes to communicate with your employees and get their feedback on workflows and working environments. This open channel will help you identify problems before they happen.

Leadership can also help to identify possible hazards by walking through the workplace and watching individual workers go through the daily functions of their jobs.  With a fresh set of eyes, company leaders can start to see new hazards and ask questions to help reduce the probability of an incident.

Are those boxes stacked properly?

Do our employees have lumbar supported chairs?

Is the loading dock too cramped?

These sorts of questions may help employers implement proactive measures. Document all your findings with hazard reports that detail all potential problems and solutions.

Even with a thorough review, not all occupational health hazards will be readily apparent. Cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) for example may take months or years to set in and cause pain or discomfort. Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are often preventable but occur because of repeated motions and stresses. That’s why having an ergonomic expert tour your worksite is a great idea.

An ergonomic specialist will travel to your worksite and evaluate risk factors that may lead the onset of CTDs and other injuries. The specialist will make recommendations and propose changes to reduce the risk of injury, helping protect workers and save you money. Ergonomic experts can also hold short classes to raise awareness among staff and management about ergonomics and a healthy workplace.

A great occupational medicine program will conduct a Human Performance Evaluation (HPE) that can evaluate whether the work can safely preform the physical demands of job. A physical therapist can use special force gauges to estimate the amount of stresses involved in common work tasks. Using these measurements, they can create a set of guidelines that help employers hire workers who are physically able to handle their occupational demands, thereby limiting candidates who may become injured on-the-job through a mismatch of physical capacity and physical requirements.

Proper equipment is another crucial aspect of injury prevention. This means making sure all industrial machines are working and serviced properly, and that employees are adequately equipped. Gloves, goggles and steel-toed boots are all good ways to reduce workplace injuries. Be sure that signage with important information is prominently displayed, especially around hazardous areas or machines.

To prevent occupational injuries, employers need to think ahead and be prepared. A risk analysis and prevention strategy will keep your employees safe and your bottom line intact. If you are interested in getting a step-by-step guide to implementing an occupational health program, contact one of our work health experts.

 

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