The costs of workplace injuries are a serious problem – both the human costs, borne primarily by injured workers, and the financial ones, including workers' comp costs for which employers are responsible. The medical expenses associated with workers' comp injuries amount to nearly $30,000 for the average claim involving lost work time – and that figure does not include the cost of wage replacement. Additionally, those medical expenses typically run a lot higher if the injured worker has preexisting health problems that complicate healing and recovery, essentially leaving employers on the hook for the costs of medical services that employees likely needed even before their injury occurred.
The best means of addressing these issues – saving your employees and your company the pain of injuries and their aftermath – is to prevent them from happening in the first place. So if an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure (and research suggests it is), what 3 things do your employees need from you to make that happen?
- Implementing corrective measures in the workplace – In most workplaces, there are particular jobs or job categories in which there are higher rates of injuries. Taking a long, hard look at these jobs to find out why, then taking measures to mitigate the risks, is the first thing you can do to reduce workplace injuries. For most employers, bringing in an occupational health and safety expert to perform an ergonomic assessment, an evaluation designed to identify stressful or high-risk work practices, is the fastest way to get started. With the information gained from that assessment, your provider can create a set of recommendations and corrective measures for more effective injury prevention.
- Repairing damaged equipment/property – Poorly maintained equipment is a leading cause of workplace injuries. Regular inspections of equipment and property can help identify repair and maintenance needs and insure any defects are addressed promptly. Additionally, it's certainly worth reminding employees to do their part by reporting any such hazards. After all, it's their health and jobs you're trying to protect.
- Improving employee morale – Keeping workplace morale high isn't just good for your people; it's good for your business too. Employees who feel appreciated, secure and satisfied with their jobs have higher productivity rates, put in more effort, and have lower injury and illness rates. And when injuries or illnesses do occur, they return to work more quickly. Steps you can take to ensure high morale in your workplace include offering competitive wages and benefits, interacting with employees regularly, showing your appreciation for the work they do, and creating a culture of safety – a measure that, according to OSHA, is one of the most important things you can do to improve and maintain employee morale.
Other measures you can take towards injury prevention include implementing a physical abilities testing program in your workplace to ensure that workers are well matched to the physical demands of their positions, making certain that protective equipment is up-to-date and easily available, and ensuring that effective employee safety training is in place. While preventing workplace injuries entirely is not possible, substantially reducing them certainly is, and taking good care of your workplace and your employees is the way to get it done.