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Putting Workplace Safety First

Posted 5/31/2017 by UHBlog

Is your workplace addressing its specific health and safety hazards? Talk to us about ways to protect your employees.

Putting Workplace Safety First

If you want a profitable business, take a look at your company’s workplace safety.

“A safe work environment can be one of your company’s biggest assets,” says Occupational Safety and Risk Control Manager Robert Liott, MS, CHSP, ARM, CRIS. “Developing a safety culture should be a primary goal and considered a core value within an organization. It’s a process that requires commitment from business owners/management in order to make it happen.”

In order for safety to become a core value in your workplace, employers need to make it a priority for every task performed by employees.

“In every meeting, in every project, etc., it (safety) needs to be a topic of conversation relative to the task activity,” Liott says. “When you make your priority one of safety first, you'll find that the benefits to your organization can be enormous.”

Among some of those benefits, Liott says, are:

  1. A well-defined reduction in workplace injuries and costs
  2. Higher productivity and quality
  3. Reduced employee turnover
  4. Greater employee satisfaction and company loyalty

According to an Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) injury and illness prevention white paper, unsafe work environments are expensive to employers and life-altering to employees, particularly those who are disabled so severely they can no longer work. Some of the numbers cited by OSHA include:

  1. Over 4,500 people are killed on the job each year - or more than 12 workers a day
  2. More than 4.1 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness annually
  3. Workplace injuries cost employers an estimated $58 billion in 2008, according to the Liberty Mutual Research Institute
  4. Workers' compensation payouts increased from $60 billion in 2000 to $74 billion in 2009, reported the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI)

Even though workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped since the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 was enacted, exposures to hazards and employee at-risk behaviors in the workplace are still likely to occur, Liott says.

According to Liott, it’s an employer’s responsibility to identify workplace safety hazards and employee at-risk behaviors. Once identified, you should do whatever it takes to mitigate or eliminate these in order to maintain a safe work environment.

“I’ve worked and consulted with some employers who look at workplace accidents as a cost of doing business, but they don't realize how big of an impact that thinking has on their business," he says. “I believe at least 95 percent of accidents can be prevented.”

To identify workplace safety hazards and employee at-risk behaviors, your workers' compensation third-party administrator (TPA) can provide your company with an employee injury report on a regular basis, such as monthly or quarterly. That report will help you identify the activities being performed when an injury occurred. If supervisors are conducting accident investigations, they should be able to identify the hazards and/or at-risk employee behaviors that are contributing to the employee injuries, Liott says. Then, your next logical step is to define best practices to minimize or eliminate the hazards and at-risk behaviors. You want to communicate these best practices to all employees. Your supervisors should then ensure these practices are being used and followed.

“It’s important to get your employees' buy-in to your workplace safety program," Liott says. "That will only occur when best practices are consistently and persistently communicated, encouraged and sincerely expected by management.”

To learn more about implementing workplace safety strategies at your workplace or other University Hospitals occupational health and safety services, connect with University Hospitals Employer Solutions.

Robert Liott, MS, CHSP, ARM, CRIS, is Manager, Occupational Safety and Risk Control Services, at University Hospitals.

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