Do You Know the True Costs of an Unsafe Workplace?

Do You Know the True Costs of an Unsafe Workplace?

There are pros and cons to every job, and for the sake of our employees, we need to do our best to maximize the pros. One way to do this is to make sure the workplace is as risk-free and safe as possible. Not only will this show that you are concerned about the individuals you employ, but it will also save you money by preventing accidents at work.

With this thought in mind, we wanted to find out how much it costs on average for workers to get direct worker’s compensation after being hurt or discriminated against at work. Even if you do not think about the risk of being sued, there are other costs stemming from unsafe working conditions. 

For instance, if your employees keep leaving because the workplace is deemed risky or dangerous, you will have to keep spending money to recruit new ones, who will need to be trained from scratch. 

Finding and retaining great employees is a key to success with any business, large or small.

So, what can business owners do to keep their employees? It all boils down to making sure that people have a safe, clean, and pleasant environment to work in. But before we talk about that, let us take a moment to figure out how much it could cost you to have an unsafe workplace.

Work Comes with Risk

Working environments often present unique risks to workers. For example, construction sites can involve heavy machinery and hazardous materials, while factories involve fast-moving machines and dangerous chemicals. Even jobs that seem relatively safe can pose danger if you don’t take the right precautions. 

For example, farmers must frequently operate heavy machinery or deal with large animals. Unfortunately, countless individuals lose working days because of accidents or illnesses tied directly to their work. Thousands of workers are injured or killed in accidents that could have been prevented.

By skimping on safety measures, businesses can end up spending a lot more to cover the medical bills of workers who get hurt. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), businesses incur 1 billion dollars a week in employee compensation due to unsafe working conditions. 

On top of that, companies end up having to cover legal services if the staff members decide to take legal action for negligence and unsafe working conditions. 

It is tempting to put these numbers down to the risks that come with certain jobs. Accidents on the job and factory floor are just a part of life, right? 

We have made technological advances which should make workplace injuries less frequent, yet companies and employees must stay vigilant.

The OSHA estimate does not include the implied costs of a dangerous workplace, though. In other words, if there is an accident at work, the company must pay for an internal investigation. It also needs to find the money to pay for new safety precautions while making up for lost revenue and profits.

If an accident damages any of the organization’s assets, it will also have to pay to fix it. Consequently, if the employees who were involved in the accident quit because of it, it will cost more to train their replacements. If anything, the number of $1 billion each week is too low of an estimate. 

Now that you know how to read the numbers, let us examine another vital angle of the story. Why is it important for your company to have good safety procedures?

A Breakdown of the True Costs of Neglecting Worker Safety

While we briefly went over some of the possible costs you can incur earlier, costs vary from business to business. Below, we outline some of the most common patterns we have seen when it comes to the implicit costs of neglecting worker safety and having an unsafe workplace.

1. Citational Risks

The chances of getting a ‘cite’ from OSHA if your workplace does not have the right health and safety rules in place is also going up in the past few years. OSHA has made a chart of the most expensive citations that cost more than $40,000 in 2015. For example, a construction company in Illinois was penalized nearly $2 million for approximately 40 total violations. 

According to Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA), “Fall Protection” with guardrails was one of the OSHA criteria that was broken most frequently in 2013. This led to more than 8,000 citations and more than $20 million spent entirely on fines. Also, specialty construction contracts paid upwards of $48 million in fines, while small organizations paid upwards of $70 million.

2. Litigation Risks

Financial risks are a big cost, but more and more accidents and injuries are leading to long court cases that can last for months or even years. Norton Rose Fulbright did a new research project that surveyed 401 people and started to look at the patterns in court action. 

The analysis revealed that 44% of the construction sector survey participants were facing compliance prosecution, and the expenses of litigation are still going up, with 71% of companies having to spend over $1 million on litigation, up from 53% some few years back.

Also, the report suggests that engineering and construction enterprises are also most likely to employ outside advice and guidance when they are involved in a long court case, with 42% of firms choosing this route.

3. Lost Time

When someone gets hurt, the company ends up losing a lot of time and entire plans end up having to be backtracked. The estimated 50,000 incidents occurring in one week require at least one entire week off of work, and the typical amount of time lost per injury is four weeks. 25% of work-related injuries require 12 weeks or more off, which is a scary number. These statistics show that both the worker and the employer lose significant time, which hurts profits and productivity by unprecedented degrees.

What are the Benefits of Improving Worker Safety?

It’s important to keep in mind that unsafe working conditions aren’t just inconvenient — they can also be deadly. Most importantly, employers are legally responsible for their employees’ safety. If you fail to provide a safe working environment, or if you fail to provide workers with the necessary protections, you could be held liable for any harm caused. Even if you’re not legally responsible, you could face a PR nightmare and a loss of employees if you don’t take safety seriously.

The best way for a company to save money is to decrease the number of ailments, injuries, and mortalities at work. At the very least, it would mean that less of the company’s revenues are going into paying for medical bills and OSHA fines. You would, therefore, spend minimal resources on activities like independent investigations, but even that is not all.

If employees get hurt at work less often, they will need sick days less often. After all, individuals generally feel better and safer when they work for businesses that look out for them. People also tend to remain with the same company longer, which saves you money on training costs.

If, despite all this, your company is somehow still paying for worker’s compensation and setbacks that are not covered by insurance, the damage to its public image can be harder to handle. Businesses that are taken to court get a lot of unwanted attention, and often lose respect from their business associates and suppliers. Too often, they can lose the trust of their shareholders, clients, and the people in the communities they depend on. 

In the end, being responsible as a business is a great way to establish a good name in the corporate world. So, if you are not obligated to cover medical expenses for workers who are injured or the firm’s legal costs, think about potential clients and investors.

How Do I Improve Worker Safety?

To start, good worker safety looks like an open line of communication. Workers need to feel safe enough to report any issues and have the right training to solve them. It also looks like effective enforcement of OSHA regulations. In addition, good worker safety should be a solid plan for emergencies. 

For example, if you operate in a factory setting, you might have a procedure for dealing with chemical spills. This might include shutting off the flow of chemicals and turning on the internal sprinkler system. You should also train employees on how to respond to these emergencies and have a designated person in charge at all times.

There are a few ways to ensure safe working conditions. The first is to design a safe workplace from the start. This means carefully laying out the physical space, as well as deciding how employees will access the work area. You can also regularly inspect the workplace for hazards and maintain equipment. Finally, you can train your employees on how to operate safely and use the right safety equipment. Ideally, you should have a safety committee that meets regularly to assess the safety situation.

There really are, of course, several other ways to make a workplace safe, and there are numerous motives for doing so. If money is not an issue, think about how people will see you. Even if you do not care about your company’s image, you will still want to avert spending money on things that are not necessary, such as litigation and fines. 

The Bottom Line

It takes time and dedication to build the right worker safety culture, and we hope we have shown why safety culture shouldn’t be neglected. When employees feel protected, they are happier, more productive and safer

At Field1st, we offer workplace safety training, job hazard assessment tools, and other vital resources to actively promote safety and health at work. From classroom sessions to practical demonstrations and enterprise-wide software solutions, we provide valuable insights and guidance on occupational safety and compliance so that you can prevent workplace accidents and injuries, reduce costs, and improve staff retention and morale. 

Learn more about Workplace Safety today!

How to Create a Proactive Safety Culture at Work

How to Create a Proactive Safety Culture at Work

The phrase “workplace culture” has become very popular recently. Yet, workplace culture is not just a buzzword. It is a term that encompases education, inclusion and safety. Instead of referring to your company’s specific safety strategy and program, safety culture is the way laborers, administrators, supervisors, and entrepreneurs think about and act toward safety at work. A wellness and safety program that works and is viable needs to have a strong safety culture.

You may find the notion of establishing or shifting your safety culture scary because the “way things are” at your workplace has settled into a trend of complacency. When people get too comfortable, unfortunate things can happen, like accidents, injuries, illnesses, or even death. Do not let this happen at your place of work. Here is how to create a proactive approach to safety at your workplace.

What is a Proactive Workplace Safety Culture?

Work safety culture is when everyone works together to make sure the office or worksite is free from any dangers, hygienic to be in, and a productive place to be.

This means that incidents are planned for and measures are taken to stop them from happening before they cause harm to anyone within the company. By taking responsibility for health and safety at work, your employees can keep themselves and others from getting hurt, or worse

A safe working environment at work does not just happen. You have to take steps to gradually build it up over time and keep showing how important it is by establishing guidelines and continuing to follow through.

When thinking about your company’s safety culture at work, you should consider the following:

  Getting staff to adhere to safe work practices every day

  Make sure you have clear rules in place for dealing with work-related hazards.

  Supervisors and employees should be given continual safety training.

  Keep reminding people that risk mitigation is a joint responsibility.

  Give people ways to disclose unsafe workplace practices, even if they want to do it in private.

Tips for Creating a Proactive Worker Safety Culture

1. Provide Safety Training to Everyone

When building a culture of safety, it is important to give your workers the skills and resources they need to make good decisions. If they have never been trained on how to do a job right, they might not know the safest way to do it.

When employees do not get enough training and mentoring to do their jobs well, things go wrong. It is crucial to train new staff well and keep training long-term employees, particularly when they get added roles. Make it simple for employees to attend workshops by providing training during office hours. If meetings are only convenient after work or on weekends, pay the workers for their time.

If they have to work near equipment that moves, show them where to put their hands and how wobbly garments can get trapped in machinery. If they are using a hacksaw, show them how to hold their bodies and how to keep the instrument in good shape. 

Let them know of industry best practices and standards, what to watch out for, and how they can ensure safety for not just themselves but also their colleagues. Training workshops are important to make sure your employees know what they need to know. Regular notifications and training sessions keep everybody on track. Putting up signs and labels in dangerous places can also help in avoiding accidents.

2. Implement a Health and Safety Program

Create a plan for safety and wellness to give your proposals a name. Alongside keeping workers protected, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), this should help your business avoid administrative costs associated with workplace accidents, such as time wasted as a result of slowdowns, medical expenses, absenteeism, and new staff training to replace injured workers, and damage or injury to materials, machinery, and property.

All over the world, employers have to follow different laws, and if they do not provide a safe place to work, they can get in trouble. You should know what your regulatory responsibilities are and start taking steps to make sure you meet all of them.

Also, when workers get sick or hurt at work and cannot do their jobs, even for a quick space of time, it can hurt team spirit, production efficiency, retention, and the public image of your company. When you have a safety policy in place, you show your employees that you want to address problems before they happen. 

This also serves as a method for establishing confidence with workers and facilitating communication, and it often leads to other continuous improvements within the workplace as well.

What do you do, after all, when everybody understands the guidelines but some people still do not follow them?

The simple solution is to establish a formal policy stating responsibilities for workplace safety.

This is an important step in ensuring a safe work culture. If employees who break the firm’s safety rules on purpose do not face any repercussions, they have no reason to change their ways. 

A safety personal responsibility policy spells out exactly what violations are, how serious they are, and what will be done about them. Then, all staff members must sign the policy to show that they understand it and agree with it. This ensures that employees understand the safety policy at your workplace.

3. Encourage Safety Conversations

Make safety the first thing you talk about at every meeting to show how important it is in the workplace.

Start the meeting by talking about recent accidents, events, or close calls. This will get everyone involved and help create a preemptive safety culture. By talking about safety as a team, you can see problems from different points of view and find their solutions more quickly. By talking about safety first, you show your employees how important it is and plant the concept of safe operations deep within the organizational culture.

Safety at the workplace is a collaborative effort, and it is important to involve everyone on the staff. One way to get employees involved is to develop a system for identifying risks that you can talk about in meetings. Inspire employees to find dangers in their workplace, fix them or let management know about them, write down what they discovered and also what they did to fix them, and convey this information to executives. 

At the end of the week, give a prize to the person who made the best “catch.” This is a great way to get employees doing things to make their workplace safer. By rewarding people for safe practices, you can motivate them to do things the proper way and establish a proactive safety culture that they are fully invested in.

4. Inspect and Upgrade Equipment Regularly

Workers are kept safe with personal protective gear. It does not work, though, when it has started to wear out or is straight up broken. OSHA also recommends that employers set up a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) curriculum if their jobs require the workforce to use PPE. The program should cover how to choose, maintain, and use PPE, as well as any risks that might be present.

Staff members should also be trained on how to utilize protective gear appropriately, and the program should be constantly checked to make sure it works. This is essential because if PPE does not fit right, workers could be exposed to potential hazards on the job site. It is important to set up a strict routine for all PPE to also be carefully checked and, if needed, replaced. Workers should also check every item before using it to make sure it is safe and in good condition.

5. Use a Top-Down Approach

For workplace safety to be an important tenet of an organization’s culture, everybody from the executive level to the middle management to factory floor workers needs to support it. All levels of leadership must talk about and show how important safety at work is.

When there are discrepancies observed between the words and actions of leaders regarding their safety obligations, it can be hard to get staff members to follow safety rules. It cannot just come from the people in charge of safety at the company; it has to start coming from the individual who authorizes their time card every day to check in at the office. When managers communicate effectively and also do what they say, things start to move for the better within the company. In other words, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Safely!

The Bottom Line

Building a culture of safety at work is one of the best investments any business can make.

When employees feel safe, they are happier, and when workers are satisfied, they strive harder to help the company reach its goals. By taking these steps to establish a safety culture, you are well on your path to making your workplace safer and taking your company to a new level of safety culture at the workplace.

Need help in building your own safety culture at work?

You can find the right tools for assessing job hazards with Field1st, and reduce risks that may impact your business. We offer a complete suite of occupational safety defense training and software solutions that ensure public and employee safety and improve business performance.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help, or request a demo!

How to Avoid These 13 Common Causes of Injuries and Fatalities for Utility Workers

How to Avoid These 13 Common Causes of Injuries and Fatalities for Utility Workers

Did you know that in the last 25 years, over 400,000 Americans died from work-related accidents and sickness, while 50 million suffered severe injuries?

These injuries have cost employees and their families billions of dollars in missed earnings and output. Many of these accidents could have been prevented had the workers been more aware of their surroundings or taken precautionary measures beforehand. In many cases workers are in an unsafe environment to begin with, and the onus then falls on the company.

It’s pretty common knowledge that construction sites tend to be inherently hazardous environments with a variety of potential risks, including, but not limited to:

  • Slips and falls
  • Being trapped between dangerous equipment
  • Electrocution from shock or voltage
  • Falling objects
  • Fires/explosions caused by flammable gasses or combustible material

So what can we do?

In this article  we’ll explore 13 common causes of utility worker injuries and fatalities as well as how you can identify risk factors and reduce safety risks for your employees.

1. Staying Too Long on a Ladder or Platform and Improper Use of Scaffolding

Scaffolding and ladders are commonly used pieces of equipment. However, they can also lead to serious injuries and even death if not used properly. Always make sure that your scaffolding has the proper markings and certification. So, avoid standing on the top step of the scaffolding and always make sure to use the right type of ladder for the job. These ladders have a larger surface area, which means you’re less likely to slip off of them.

Do not climb a ladder until you have first ensured that it is properly fastened down. Always remember, whether you’re ascending or descending:

  • Face the ladder
  • Maintain a midline position between the two rails
  • Keep three points of contact at all times by using either two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand when on a ladder
  • Keep your hold strong
  • Be sure your shoes are in top form
  • Remove any muck, water, snow, ice, or oil from your shoes
  • Be careful of where you place your feet or hands on an extension ladder, since the locks may block your view of the ladder’s rungs
  • The rule of thumb is that only one person should be on a ladder at a time. Don’t climb the ladder until the other person has stepped off
  • If you need to tie or untie an extension ladder, have someone else hold the base of the ladder
  • Use safety equipment when working at high levels (e.g., safety belt, fall restraint, etc.)
  • When operating at or near heights of more than 3 meters, be sure to check the regulations in your area
  • When climbing a ladder, make sure that no straps or other attachments might get in the way

If you’re relying on a lift platform, make sure to check that it’s not malfunctioning. Malfunctions could cause the platform to drop unexpectedly, posing a risk of serious injury or death.

If the job is taking longer than expected, do not hesitate to ask for assistance. Excessive time spent on the ladder or platform can be detrimental to your health and well-being. 

2. Lack of Fall Protection/Equipment

If you’re working at a height above 6 feet, you should always wear fall protection. If heights are between 10 and 6 feet, you should also wear fall protection if the task is considered to be high risk or dangerous. This includes tasks such as climbing, painting, or using ladders.

When wearing a harness, always make sure that the equipment is properly adjusted to your body. This can prevent your harness from slipping down or getting caught if you happen to fall. If the area you’re working in is slippery, you should be wearing steel-toed shoes to ensure that you’re protected in the event of a fall.

3. Lack of Job-site Awareness

Be aware of your surroundings, as you’re highly unlikely to get trapped or injured by another person that way. This includes avoiding areas where live electricity is present and staying away from moving machinery. Always look around you and be aware of what’s happening in the immediate vicinity.

Malfunctioning equipment can cause sparks, fires, or electrocution. Stay away from any equipment that appears to be broken. If you’re using a tool that’s been dropped and it’s still sparking, eliminate the source of the spark by switching to non-sparking tools. Sparks can cause fires and explosions, especially when working around combustible materials.

4. Overcrowding and Not Having a Co-worker Check Your Task

If there’s too much congestion in the area where you’re working, you could risk being in the way of a moving object or equipment. If you are working at an elevated height or on top of a roof, you should always have a partner check that you’re safe and properly secured before you continue working.

Similarly, if you’re working with another person, always check in and make sure that they’re safe and prepared for the task at hand. If you notice that a co-worker is in an unsafe position, make sure to let them know.

5. Carelessness When Using Tools and Machinery

Always inspect a tool or piece of equipment before use to ensure that it’s not broken or malfunctioning. If there are loose wires or punctures, you should report the damage to your supervisor.

Ensure that you’re wearing the appropriate safety gear when handling hazardous tools or working with harmful chemicals. Always make sure that your respirator is functional and that you have goggles or a face shield if you’re dealing with hazardous substances. Staying safe and out of harm’s way starts with you.

6. Limited Visibility Due to Dust and Fumes

The best way to avoid breathing in hazardous fumes or dust is to avoid it in the first place. This can be achieved by wearing a respirator when working in a dusty environment. If you must work in a dusty environment without a respirator, be sure to change locations frequently to minimize the amount of dust that you’re exposed to.

If you’re working around toxic fumes, make sure to read the warning signs. If a fume or substance is flammable, keep a fire extinguisher nearby. If they contain chemicals, make sure to use a chemical-resistant glove. On the other hand, if you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, or irritation, you should move to a different part of the site or seek medical immediate attention.

7. Exposure to Harmful Chemicals and Toxins

We sometimes forget how dangerous certain chemicals and toxins can be. This can be especially harmful if you are not wearing the proper protective gear. Always take the appropriate precautions when working with chemicals. If you’re not sure what precautions to take, ask your supervisor or look it up online. If you’re working with chemicals that contain toxins, you should always wear a respirator and eye protection.

8. Exposure to Extreme Temperatures

When working outside in the summer, be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat, and proper clothing. In contrast, when you’re working outside in the winter, you should wear warm clothing and gloves.

Keep an eye on the weather and the temperature. If there’s a possibility of a storm or heavy rainfall, secure loose items on the job site. When you see ice or snow on the ground, be sure to use salt or sand to make walking easier. When working in a hot environment, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. The same goes for cold environments, but you should avoid drinking large amounts of water to avoid swelling.

9. Struck-by

Most struck-by events occur when employees create brick barriers, labor near moving vehicles, or are injured by falling or flying debris. 247 workers died in transportation incidents in 2020, such as being struck by a vehicle, while 153 die every 15 seconds in equipment-related accidents. 75% of struck-by occurrences include a truck or crane, according to OSHA.

The Center for Construction Research and Training recommends that employees stay to planned courses, pay attention to spotter/flagger signals, and listen for sirens and horns. It is also suggested that machine operators examine their vehicles before use, use mirrors and backup alarms when driving, restrict visibility while backing up, and switch off their radios when parked.

10. Electrical Risks

Even when precautions are taken, working with electricity poses hazards. Workers increase their risk of electrocution by failing to take precautions while exposed to electricity on the job.

The following are the leading causes of electrical injuries, according to OSHA:

  • Making contact with electricity wires
  • Insufficient safeguards against ground faults
  • There is no continuous route to the earth
  • Devices are misused
  • Misuse of adaptors, extension cords, and other flexible cables

OSHA advises implementing and strictly enforcing safe work practices to reduce the occurrence of electrical mishaps in the workplace. This includes doing basic things like turning off power to electrical devices before inspecting or repairing them, keeping electric tools in good operating condition, taking precautions around live power lines, and wearing safety gear. 

11. Trenching

From 2011 to 2018, 1,030 construction workers died in trenching incidents, most commonly due to a cave-in while working on subsurface utilities. Luckily, there are actions one may take to avoid such an incident in the workplace.

Before entering a trench, OSHA recommends a soil assessment to determine the best personal protection measures, such as sloping, benching, shoring, or shielding. The agency provided five vital suggestions for ensuring the safety of employees, including:

  • Guaranteeing the availability of secure entry and exit
  • Implementing cave-in-resistant features in trenches
  • Checking if there are any potential atmospheric dangers in the area
  • Keeping debris from piling up near the trench’s edge
  • Avoiding going into a trench before having a trained professional check it out first

12. Falls

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls account for the majority of fatalities in the construction business. The BLS reports that in 2020, 368 construction workers lost their lives due to falls.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are four main dangers on construction sites that lead to falls and subsequent injuries:

  • Unprotected sides, wall apertures, and floor holes
  • Improper scaffold construction
  • Rebars of steel, projecting without protection
  • Ladder abuse

The OSHA advises that, before beginning work, building sites be surveyed for potential hazards to reduce the risk of injuries caused by falls. Workers must also be given the correct training and tools for operating safely at heights.

13. Health Issues

Construction work may cause serious respiratory difficulties. According to the BLS, 50 deaths occurred from toxic inhalation at work in 2020. When respiratory risks are present on a worksite, OSHA mandates employers to implement:

  • Technical controls, such as an exhaust fan
  • Work practice controls, such as wet-cutting, and
  • Administrative controls, such as limiting worker exposure

OSHA mandates businesses to supply respirators if these approaches don’t give enough respiratory protection. You might also require a complete respirator program at your workplace. 

Final thoughts

Despite even the most comprehensive plan and attentive workers, accidents can still happen. When accidents do occur, you must move quickly to provide on site medical care.

Field1st can help you create a thorough injury care protocol in case of an accident. Our proactive approach to therapy and focus on getting patients back to work quickly help them heal fast and continue their usual tasks. We help you to minimize OSHA-reported accidents at your workplace with a combination of hazard assessment tools, safety defense training, and real-time data monitoring and reporting.

Call today for a free quote!