In 2010, just over 3,000,000 recordable workplace injuries occurred in the U.S. Fortunately, less than 5,000 of those were fatal.
What do they all have in common? They cost money and do damage to a business. No matter what the size of your company is, claims and lawsuits over workplace injuries can take a huge toll on your bottom line. Even with excellent insurance, you’ll end up paying severely heightened premiums if claims pile up.
More importantly, the health of your employees and contract workers should be held in high regard. That’s both out of benevolence and genuine concern for your fellow man, and for the simple fact that happy, healthy workers contribute more to your company.
Whether your business includes deliveries, heavy machinery usage, or exists solely in an office environment, these are some of the potential hazards you should be aware of and prepared for:
Slips and Falls
2010 saw 208,470 accidents from falls in the U.S., in workplaces of all sorts and sizes. Address the potential of employee falls in a meeting and ask them to help prevent potential hazards. Running loose cords across an office is an obvious culprit, as are dimly lit hallways (especially those with stairs). Assess your office for potential places that could cause a trip. In addition, if you have floors that are mopped, purchase a ‘wet floor’ sign. Remember that in the event of a lawsuit, your preventative efforts will matter considerably.
If you work in an office all day, it’s probably difficult to see how overexertion could become a problem. But even a real estate agent could become overexerted if they’re working hard to prepare a home before potential buyers arrive. Simply loading supplies into an office could lead to an overexertion injury. Instruct your employees to use wise judgment when determining what they can safely lift, and make it clear in your safety manual that they are not expected to carry anything heavy and that doing so is their choice. Even better, keep a hand truck or dolly on hand so that workers will be less tempted to show off their brute strength when it’s time to move the copy machine out for repairs.
Whether it’s working an assembly line or typing away at a computer, repetitive motion injuries are among the most common workplace problems today. Tendonitis, bursitis (elbow swelling) and carpal tunnel syndrome are all on the rise. Educate employees on the early signs of each and the potential dangers. Provide ergonomic chairs and desks where possible and encourage frequent breaks to stretch.
Despite any smart company’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy for violence amongst employees, tensions do flair and occasionally it can get ugly. Most of the time, these incidents brew for weeks or months before becoming physical. To prevent altercations, establish a dispute resolution plan. Each employee should clearly understand how and with whom they are to address any issue that arises with another employee. Downplay the ‘tattle tale’ element and emphasize the importance of speaking up. A manager should remember to serve as an impartial mediator to resolve the dispute before it ever escalates.
Don’t ever send an employee out to run an errand with your car or a company vehicle without first establishing a company policy for motor vehicle operation that they have read and signed off on. Before entrusting any employee to drive on company business, run a background check on their driving record. Prohibit driving while texting or using a cell phone, even if it’s legal in your state. Although the temptation is often there to send a long-time employee out for a quick errand in your car, it can ultimately prove to be a costly mistake.
Keeping your employees safe often boils down to common sense. Even then, it’s wise to take the extra step and always err on the side of caution. It’s worth the eye-rolling you might get during meetings to establish a steadfast reputation as a manager concerned with worker safety.
Jay Acker leads a group of producers who create OSHA safety manuals and other training materials for business customers. They make training kits, courseware and safety posters at www.safetyservicescompany.com.