Workplace injuries are all too common. In 2019, 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by employers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means about three out of every 100 full-time workers was injured on the job.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to create a safe and healthy work environment. A safe workplace improves employee morale, but it also helps your business save money. The National Safety Council estimates that work-related injuries cost the U.S economy $171 billion dollars in 2019—or about $1,100 per worker.
While you may not be able to prevent every workplace accident, there are many ways to help your employees avoid getting injured while they work.
Prioritize Safety Training
Education can go a long way towards preventing workplace injuries. Safety training should be conducted to teach employees about workplace safety, company policies, and basic first aid (where appropriate). Refresher courses should take place throughout the year to remind employees of the proper procedures and update outdated information.
It’s also crucial to keep a copy of workplace safety procedures easily accessible in case of an emergency. This should include contact numbers for first responders, as well as instructions for how to report an incident.
Safety training sessions should also discuss common warning signs that often lead to accidents and injuries. These include symptoms like fatigue and stress, which can affect your concentration and make it physically harder to do some tasks.
Remove or Label Hazards
Another easy way to prevent injuries is to remove hazards as soon as they are identified. This could be as simple as cleaning up spills when they happen, keeping walkways free of clutter, and throwing out faulty equipment.
It’s also important to properly label hazards. Letting others know to be cautious could keep them from getting injured. Some hazard labels are temporary, such as a “wet floor” sign. Others are more permanent, such as signs advising where chemicals are stored.
Visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website for information on what types of warning signs and labels you may need in your workplace.
Invest in Proper Equipment
Employees need the right equipment to do their jobs safely. The equipment they need will depend on the nature of your business, but also the role that each individual employee does.
Safety clothing is an important part of preventing workplace injuries for some industries. For example, construction workers may need to wear helmets, high-visibility vests, and steel toe boots on a job site. However, medical staff may need face masks and disposable gloves to do their job safely.
Even office workers may need special equipment to avoid injuries. Neck and back pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, and eye strain are common complaints that can lead to injury in an office setting. Providing these employees with supportive chairs, footrests, and other ergonomically designed furniture can help keep them safe and healthy.
Listen to Your Employees
Communication is often an overlooked way to prevent workplace injuries. Your employees should feel comfortable and confident reporting unsafe working conditions or practices without fear of retaliation. They are your eyes and ears throughout the business and may notice risks that you have not.
Listening to your employees may go beyond pointing out physical hazards or requests for safety equipment. It may also include employees speaking up if they feel overworked or depressed. These types of mental stress can make it difficult to sleep, leading to workplace fatigue and greater injury risk.
Employees who ask for help early on can get the assistance they need to perform their job safely—before an injury occurs. As an employer, you may be able to hire short-term or contract workers to support regular staff during busy periods, approve additional time off, or provide wellness programs to help your staff better manage their work-life balance.
Be Prepared with Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Preventing all workplace injuries may be impossible. However, there is a way to be prepared for when accidents do happen. Workers’ Compensation insurance provides an important safety net for your employees and small business.
Workers’ Compensation insurance protects your company and its employees. If any of your employees get injured at work or are ill, this type of insurance will cover their medical bills. It will also cover some of their lost income if they’re unable to work because of the injury, as well as rehabilitation or physical therapy to transition the employee back into the workplace.
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