If your safety policies and procedures are thorough, well-documented and consistently implemented, your company may go months, or even years, without an incident. With the right equipment and training, as well as input from employees at every level, it is possible to reach the coveted zero-incident goal.
On-the-job accidents and fatalities still can happen, and you need to be prepared to handle them. Deaths and debilitating injuries are hard on everyone involved: workers, families, friends and co-workers. They also can have far-reaching, long-lasting effects on your company’s bottom line, productivity and morale. Here are a few of the most important effects to keep in mind as you’re designing your safety programs and requesting funds.
OSHA estimates employers nationwide pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs, which include compensation payments, medical expenses and legal fees. There is no “typical” injury, and costs vary wildly, but the average lost time claim is between $50,000 and $100,000.
Indirect costs can be far higher, and the American Society of Safety Engineers estimates the indirect to direct ratio can be anywhere from 1:1 to 20:1. These costs include equipment repair, accident investigation, training replacement employees and implementing corrective measures.
In addition to the costs of internal investigations, an accident or fatality can lead to severe OSHA scrutiny — even in the case of an honest mistake. According to OSHA’s penalty schedule, the maximum penalty on a serious violation is $7,000, while the maximum for a willful or repeat violation is $70,000. Of course, any post-incident audit may uncover additional areas of noncompliance, which will cost your company even more.
Employers who don’t buy workers’ compensation insurance obviously are at risk, but even seemingly compliant companies can come under fire. For instance, a company that normally staffs full-time employees might hire a group of contractors for one particular job. If one of those contractors is injured, and the company’s insurance policy doesn’t cover them, there could be a long legal battle to determine who’s responsible for the costs.
In almost every case, an injured worker’s productivity will be reduced or eliminated. However, their individual workload is just a small piece of a complex puzzle. Did that worker have a special skill that will have to be taught to another employee? How many labor hours will it take to make up for lost time? Can anyone get that job done, or do you have to wait for the injured employee to heal and return to work? Even if someone else can pick up where they left off, the temporary lapse will cost time and resources.
Incidents — particularly deaths — often have significant, long-lasting impacts on employee morale. There are the emotional impacts of losing friends and team members, as well as the stress created by extra work, added pressure and deadlines. It’s tough to quantify the costs, but an unhappy workforce is generally a less productive workforce — not to mention less safe.
Strained Employee-Employer Relationships
Injuries and deaths can strain relationships between higher-ups, middle managers and lower-tiered workers. The injured employee may feel entitled to special treatment or resentful about the incident, particularly if their injury was due to a mistake on the part of their employer. Depending on the circumstances and follow-up, other workers also may feel that their employers don’t have their best interests at heart.
If your company suffers an accident or fatality, your first course of action should be to tend to the needs of the affected worker and family. Once you’ve taken care of them, you need to make the best of the situation by addressing the reason the incident occurred. Accidents can be tragic, but they should serve as learning experiences that help you and your team make your workforce safer and more productive in the long run. Shoring up gaps in your company’s safety also will show your workforce that their well-being is a priority.
Do you want to efficiently reduce your injury rate, boost morale and ensure consistent regulatory compliance? Contact us today to learn how the BasicSafe safety software suite can help your company get closer to the zero-incident goal.