It is estimated that United States employers pay nearly $1 billion every week in direct costs for workers’ compensation alone. That does not include indirect costs, such as the training of replacement employees, repairing damaged property and equipment, lost productivity and costs to investigate accidents and implement corrective measures. And those indirect costs are estimated to be 2.7 times direct costs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released an update to its Guidelines for Safety and Health Programs. These recommended practices offer strategies for small to medium-sized businesses to enhance the safety and health of workers and reduce direct and indirect costs related to workplace injuries and illnesses.
The guidelines emphasize a proactive approach to identify and assess workplace hazards before injuries occur.
Gather existing information on workplace hazards: Meet with workers to assemble and review information to identify the types of potential hazards and who may be exposed. This information may be collected from records of previous injuries and illnesses, machinery and equipment operating manuals, and inspection reports from insurance carriers and government agencies, to name a few.
Examine the workplace for potential safety hazards: Regularly inspect all facilities, equipment and worksites, being sure to document with photos and/or videos for later review. Create checklists to highlight areas to look for, including fire protection, electrical hazards, equipment operation and maintenance, etc. Include workers on the inspection team, giving them an opportunity to report hazards they notice.
Identify hazards to health: Identify chemical, biological and physical hazards in addition to ergonomic risk factors associated with, for example, heavy lifting or repetitive motions.
Investigate Incidents: Incident investigations identify root causes in order to prevent future occurrences. Train investigative teams to implement clear plans for investigating incidents and report findings to management.
Identify hazards associated with emergency situations: Develop plans and procedures for a safe and appropriate response to hazards associated with potential emergency or non-routine situations, such as fires and explosions, workplace violence or structural collapse.
Classify identified hazards, specify interim control measures, and prioritize hazards: Characterize each hazard by analyzing the severity of foreseeable outcomes, the likelihood of an incident and the number of workers who might risk exposure. Prioritize the hazards by risk, and address the greatest risks first. Use interim controls until more permanent solutions are implemented.