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Your business is fast-paced, but as business owners and leaders of great people, we have to focus on the safety and overall well-being of our employees. In addition to creating a positive culture and a safe environment, it will save you money (see our post about lowering costs to be more competitive) — and workplace safety programs can play a pivotal role in this endeavor.
Your focus in creating an occupational safety program should be to prevent accidents, injuries, and illnesses in the workplace and protect your people. By implementing safety measures, such as hazard identification, risk assessment, and training programs, you can create a safe working environment for your team. The added benefit is that often employees will carry these principles learned into their personal lives, thus potentially reducing insurance costs for them and the organization (we’ll touch on that in a moment).
But workplace safety is more than just accident prevention. It’s accident prevention through proactivity. This means, among other things, looking for hazards and behaviors that could cause (or worsen) an accident or injury and remediating them. In Todd Conklin’s book, Pre-Accident Investigations, he talks about the concepts of proactive steps to identify hazards before they cause an incident, and asking better questions after an incident has occured. While the title might make it sound intimidating, the book is incredibly easy to read and has applications far beyond just workplace safety. (Imagine using the concept of ‘pre-problem research’ to identify how customer order processing might experience errors, or customer shipping practices might be able to see lower damage rates.)
Safety and wellness programs must both focus on proactive measures to prevent accidents and injuries and increase employee wellness and quality of life — after all, we spend 8+ hours (or 1/3) of our day at work, so we might as well make it as positive an experience as possible. Promoting safe work practices and providing appropriate safety equipment, among other measures, you can help do just that. It starts with reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring and leads to an overall realization by your team that you care about them as people. This, in turn, decreases the number of workers’ compensation claims, medical expenses, potential litigation costs, and yields a bonus by creating some of the benefits you’d expect to see in a workplace with a positive culture.
One of the significant financial benefits of implementing an effective occupational safety program is the potential for lower insurance rates (usually metriced using your “Experience Modification Rate” or EMR). Your EMR, which is your company’s actual workers’ compensation claims as compared with the number expected, based on your industry — the lower the number (especially if it is below 1), the better. A company with a strong safety program is likely to have fewer accidents and claims, resulting in a lower risk profile and thus insurers will be more inclined to offer lower insurance rates.
Insurance costs aside, workplace accidents have a direct impact on your people and their ability to help accomplish your company’s mission. When employees are injured or become ill due to work-related incidents, they often need time off for recovery. This leads to reduced workforce efficiency and increased downtime. And even if they can work, their productivity is often reduced while they recover to 100%. So by reducing the frequency and severity of accidents, organizations can maintain productivity levels and avoid costly interruptions.
A workplace that prioritizes employee safety fosters a positive work environment and demonstrates its commitment to employee well-being. This, in turn, improves employee morale, job satisfaction, and overall engagement. Employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their safety and genuinely cares about their welfare. A robust safety program can contribute to higher employee retention rates, reducing recruitment and training costs associated with high turnover.
An interesting side effect of workplace safety programs that is only just now starting to be explored by researchers is employees’ taking the principles of safety they learn in the workplace and applying them in their personal lives. The potential impacts here are as obvious as in workplace-related incidents. Fewer accidents and illnesses outside the workplace lead to fewer call-outs, plus fewer medical expenses and claims for employees, which then leads to lower health insurance premiums for both employers and employees.
As you can see, your company’s safety is more than just a compliance issue (notice how we didn’t even discuss OSHA here — on purpose). A workplace safety program is just one way you can signal to your people that you truly care about them (which improves morale and culture, overall) and lowers costs to improve profitability. Like other things in business, this is an investment not just an expense line — and something your employees will take notice of.