What constitutes workplace hazards?
Imagine yourself as the owner of a local restaurant and one of your kitchen staff got a third-degree burn when the contents of the hot pot he was transferring from the stovetop to the oven spilled all over him. In another establishment, one of the merchandisers suffered a mild concussion when equipment stored on top of one of the shelves accidentally fell on him. You run a local construction company and your foreman suddenly reports a scaffolding collapse incident, causing injuries to the workers standing on top of it… and the list can go on.
The Effects of These Workplace Injuries
Accidents are real, and a single incident in the workplace can hurt your business, BIG TIME! It does not just spell lost productivity, medical bills, low morale among your employees, and tons of workers’ compensation paperwork you will have to deal with; whether you are in Denver Colorado, or any state in the US, any business with a less-than-favorable reputation is likely to fail in the long run.
According to the report made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
- Around 5,250 workers died on the job in 2018 due to workplace issues. This is equivalent to about 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers on average, or more than 100 deaths per week or more than 14 deaths per day for this year alone.
- Also in 2018, a record of 1,008 or 21.1% of 4,779 worker fatalities in the private sector happened in the construction industry. This means that one in five workers fatalities were construction workers. These include the following statistics:
- Workers falling from considerable height: 33.5% or 338 out of 1,008 total deaths
- Getting struck by an object: 112 (11.1%)
- Getting electrocuted: 86 (8.5%)
- Getting compressed or caught-in/between 55 (5.5%) (Workers getting compressed or caught-in/between by equipment or objects, struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing equipment, material, or structure.)
Truth be told…
Indeed, you cannot be overly prepared, but the truth is, no matter how much you plan and prepare, accidents can still happen at any time. Anyone from your team of employees can still get injured.
Your proactivity will not go to waste, however. One of the best things you can do to ensure your business remains afloat and profitable is to keep your employees safe by making sure they are properly covered. A good Worker’s Compensation program is an example of the best coverage you could give your business and your team.
What is Workers Compensation?
Workmen’s Compensation or Workers Compensation is a type of insurance program designed to give your employees protection when they suffer work-related injuries or illness. This program set parameters that will compensate the ill employee for his physical impairments and medical expenses while protecting employers from potential bankruptcy due to these expenses.
This program includes:
- Income benefits provide a portion of the employee’s wage while he is on sick leave
- Medical and rehabilitation benefits cover the medical care of the employee due to his work-related injuries or illnesses
- Funeral benefits are provided to the deceased employee including burial or cremation
- Death benefits are given to the legal dependents such as the spouse and children of the deceased employee.
It is mandatory for all employers in the United States except the state of Texas which gives their business owners freehand in choosing whether to give it or not to their employees. The law governing it is however regulated by every 50 states.
|Alaska||Workers Compensation is required if there is more than one employee|
|Alabama||Required if there are more than 5 employees|
|Arizona||A requirement for all employers, whether private or public|
|Arkansas||A requirement for all employers with three or more employees|
|California||Business owners’ insurance generally covers compensation for all professions.|
|Colorado||Public and private employees are given workers compensation coverage with some limited exemptions.|
|Connecticut||A requirement for all business regardless of the number of employees|
|Delaware||A requirement for an employer with more than one employee.|
|District of Columbia||A requirement for any business with more than one employee.|
|Florida||A requirement for businesses with more than four employees.|
|Georgia||Required for employers with three or more full time, part-time or seasonal employees – including the officers, regardless if they exempt themselves in case the business is incorporated or an LLC.|
|Hawaii||A general requirement for all employers for their employees.|
|Idaho||A general requirement for all employers for their employees.|
|Illinois||Employers are required to provide workers compensation for all their employers.|
|Indiana||Required for all employers whether public or private.|
|Iowa||Most employers purchase workers’ compensation although they are also given the option to apply for self-insurance.|
|Kansas||Employers are required to carry a type of workers compensation insurance.|
|Kentucky||Businesses are obligated to provide workers compensation for all employees.|
|Louisiana||Employers are mandated to provide coverage to their employees.|
|Maine||Required for all businesses with at least one employee.|
|Maryland||Required for all businesses with at least one employee|
|Massachusetts||Required for all businesses, no exemptions|
|Michigan||Required for all businesses, no exceptions|
|Minnesota||Required for all businesses, no exceptions|
|Mississippi||Required for all businesses with five or more employees|
|Missouri||Required for all businesses with five or more employees|
|Montana||Required for all businesses with five or more employees|
|Nebraska||Required for all businesses, no exceptions|
|Nevada||Required for all employers with one or more than employees; they also have self-insurance options|
|New Hampshire||Required for all employers with one or more employees|
|New Jersey||Requires all employers not covered by federal programs to have workers compensation coverage|
|New Mexico||Required for employers with three or more employees|
|New York||Required for all employers.|
|North Carolina||Required for employers with four or more employees|
|North Dakota||Required for all employers|
|Ohio||Required for employers with two or more employees|
|Oklahoma||All employers are mandated to carry occupational injury coverage|
|Oregon||Mandates all employers to provide workers compensation coverage to their employees|
|Pennsylvania||Employers are mandated to carry coverage for their employees|
|Rhode Island||The state requires all employers to cover their employees|
|South Carolina||Required for businesses with four or more employees|
|South Dakota||Required for all employers|
|Tennessee||Required for employers with five or more employees. However, they also have the option to use a waiver.|
|Utah||Employers are required to have coverage except for those in agriculture with less than $50,000 income.|
|Vermont||Required for all employers|
|Virginia||Required for employees with three or more full-time or part-time workers|
|Washington||Mandatory for all employers|
|West Virginia||Employers are required to have coverage except for those in agriculture with five or fewer workers.|
|Wisconsin||Mandatory for all industries except for those with three or fewer employees|
|Wyoming||Required for all employers.|
WIIFY: The Benefits of Getting a Workers Compensation
The What’s In It For You (WIIFY) or your reasons for getting this coverage ultimately is bigger than the reason why you should not. In effect, this is a good “trade-off” between the business owner and the employee. Regardless of who is at fault for the accident, the wounded or ill employee will still get their benefits, and at the same time, the employers will be protected from potential lawsuits related to the injury.
- Employee protection. Getting sick or injured often equates to lost productivity and wages. That, and potential medical bills, are truly bad combinations. Having worker compensation coverage will significantly reduce the burden for the employee and their family. It can either give them the chance to recover and return to their job or compensate their family in case of death.
- Employer protection. Without the Workers Compensation Insurance, employers may get sued by the injured employee or his grieving family in case of death. This could result in financial loss or even bankruptcy and possible criminal liability for you as the business owner. By investing in this coverage, business owners like you will have fewer legal problems to think of since it is one of its most important benefits for employers.
It’s better safe than sorry. As most state mandates for Workers Compensation coverage for the general public to protect not just the employees but also the health of the businesses. Aside from this, it is equally important that those manning the business — meaning you as the employer and your employees are also equipped to ensure workplace safety and prevent possible injuries.
What other prevention mechanism can you put in place for your business?
They say prevention is better than cure. The same is true with workplace safety. There are ways to prevent injuries so you can protect your workforce. Probably one of the best ways to start the implementation of workplace safety is adherence to standards.
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration listed the following areas which focus should be given to:
- Construction industries should focus on fall protection with emphasis on ladders and scaffolding general requirements
- Other industries, in general, should focus on a hazard communication standard, control of hazardous energy, respiratory protection, powered industrial trucks, machinery and machine guarding as well eye and face protection; and,
- There should be adequate training on fall protection and other workplace hazards
How can you start a Workplace Safety Action Plan?
Given this information, here are some steps which you as a business owner may use for your team.
- Safety first in design. “Begin with an end in mind.” Integrating workplace safety in the overall design of the business is a good starting point in promoting productivity. An example of this is a restaurant’s kitchen layout. Adjusting the kitchen’s layout to accommodate trolleys that may be used to move heavy cauldrons spells a huge difference, safety-wise.
- Analyze your operations. Albert Einstein once said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Audit your business from top to bottom: from operations, equipment, safety standards – everything! Be proactive. Better to be one step ahead with a solution even before the unfortunate incident occurs. One good way is to talk to your employees directly. If there is anyone who knows their job best, it should be the one who is already doing it. For one, he should be able to tell you what works well, what does not and what else can be done to improve his station’s productivity. If you are adding new equipment, facility, or procedure to your business, it is also best to analyze them for possible perils as well.
- Establish workplace safety protocol. When parameters are set in place, employees are made aware of their boundaries and how they are going to react properly in the case of accidents. This is best shown in the illustration of the “Hierarchy of Controls” from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or NIOSH.
Required for all employers.
To illustrate how this works, let’s take the case of Suzanne. For the last two years, she spends most of her working hours in front of her computer at work and hardly leaves her desk during the day. This put her at risk for injuring her wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome) and suffering from UTI (urinary tract infection).
Giving her a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like a wrist brace could work but may not be the best way to address her condition. Rather, Administrative Control mechanisms like allowing her and her colleagues with short and necessary in-between toilet breaks as needed may be a better solution to her issue. Moving forward, this hazard could still be substituted or eliminated by either replacing or adjusting some of her tasks so repetitive motions causing her health issues may be prevented.
- Wearing protective equipment or dressing appropriately. Wearing hard hats, safety shoes, gloves, earplugs or earmuffs, goggles, face protection, harness, and other personal protection equipment (PPEs) can spell a lot of difference in promoting workplace safety. Injuries and accidents may be prevented if all employees who will need to wear them will do so. This is not just limited to kitchens and construction sites. Even in offices, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear can also help in promoting workplace safety. This could be made part of the workplace/ office decorum which all employees should follow.
- Set proper manpower requirements. Many employees thought rendering overtime work is good. This is counterproductive. Overtime is required when the work expected to be finished on a particular deadline cannot be completed. Employees who had to render longer hours than expected are less likely to be productive due to exhaustion. They are prone to making more mistakes and could get injured more. A way to counteract this is to set a realistic timeframe to complete the job and hire enough manpower to complete the tasks.
- Continuous learning. Learning does not necessarily end upon leaving school. Experience is the best teacher they say. A good technique is by benchmarking – learning the best practices of your competitors, making adjustments, and applying them to your own business. Have everyone on board and learn all about it. Make following safety measures within the workplace everyone’s business. Cascade information via training. Behavioral training can help everyone meet halfway and give importance to teamwork. Supplemental training can help greatly reduce injuries and practice all possible safety mechanisms especially during lifting and moving heavy objects.
- Following instructions. Accidents most often happen when an employee takes shortcuts or skips important steps to fastrack a job. There is a reason why steps are established and this must be made clear with everyone. Make sure that all procedures are explained and understood by everyone to prevent any untoward incidents in the workplace.
- Regular inspection and maintenance of company vehicles. According to The Occupational Safety and Health Act findings, workplace-driving accidents cost employers an average of 60 billion dollars a year. Given this concern, best to make sure that monthly inspections and repairs on your company vehicles are given attention too.
- Standardizing safety measures. Perhaps one of the hardest things to maintain is keeping the standard in any organization. The drive and excitement may soon fickle out if it is not monitored regularly and fervently. A way to do this is to intentionally reinforce safety measures at every opportunity, for example during staff meetings, supervision, and training – whether in a formal or informal setup. This is also a good time to set programs and reward measures to encourage the upholding of standards like staying injury-free or saving on cost and time in production.
- Keep an orderly workplace. Many serious health and safety issues in the workplace are often caused by poor housekeeping. A place for everything and everything in its place. Many manufacturing companies have since used productivity programs like the 5S system to help them. Simple strategies like markings on footpaths to ensure safety, minimizing clutter in the workplace or tables, proper labeling of files to save on time looking for them, timely and proper inventory of supplies to save on costs, and the like, are just some of the techniques you may use to ensure orderliness.
A safe workplace with “healthy” employees will also give your organization an edge over its competitors. How? Organizations with Safety Programs in place are less likely to have accidents and fewer health concerns with their employees — therefore increasing their productivity and competitiveness. With fewer compensation claims to consider in their operation, this could also equate to better output. This type of reputation is often followed with favorable feedback in terms of getting contracts… and it is all because the workplace is deemed “safe”.
You could get a myriad of workplace safety information out there, including the tips mentioned above. Making sure that your team is insured, however, is still a wise, if not the wisest, investment and decision you can make in the end.