The Real Cost of Falls and Other Workplace Injuries

by
Emma Percy
| Sep 03, 2021

There is one thing for certain when it comes to workplace falls and accidents: inattention to problematic situations and the lack of an appropriate safety plan will cost you on multiple fronts. From dips in productivity and federal workplace violations to the slew of negative effects associated with lowered morale, the downside of a dangerous workplace environment can hobble even the best-run businesses. Even if your place of business appears to be in great overall condition, it's always worth going through potentially harmful scenarios to avoid dicey situations in the future. Here's our guide to help you ensure that you're covering all your bases when it comes to workplace falls and injuries.

Understanding and avoiding OSHA violations.

Designed to be severe enough to discourage unlawful work environments, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations can very quickly cut into your bottom line – even if a business is cited only once. Before new regulations were adopted, a single violation would cost a business $7,000, although that jumped to $12,471 in November of 2015 and now stands at a robust $12,934.

But where OSHA violations can really wreak havoc is if a business doesn't immediately address the problem, as a business can also be hit with recurring costs of an additional $12,934 every single day a dangerous workplace scenario is not resolved. While it goes without saying that it's in the interests of employers to address a violation immediately, recurring violations after the abatement date are severe enough that they can actually shutter a business. For recurring violations, defined as "willful or repeated" by OSHA, the price can be $129,336 per violation.

Though this is the federal standard, it's also a good idea to know if the state you're operating in has more severe penalties than OSHA's federal guidelines. States that have their own versions of OSHA are required to administer penalties that are at least as severe as the federal ones.

The good news is that OSHA offers some free resources designed to help employers comply with all rules and regulations, such as the voluntary on-site consultation program. Entirely distinct from the OSHA inspection program, the consultation program is confidential and will give employers a thorough overview of any potential violations or hazardous situations, allowing businesses to get out in front of emerging problems. OSHA also requires employers to keep records of injuries (beyond basic first aid) and significant employee illnesses, which can also help monitor and address any unsafe conditions. Although businesses with less than 10 employees are exempt from mandatory recordkeeping of injuries, it is still recommended that all businesses keep accurate and up-to-date records.

The impact of workplace injuries on premiums.

 

There are a bevy of things to consider when it comes to workplace injuries and insurance premiums, although it's also important to remember that middle and long-term trends significantly outweigh the short-term dilemma of a worker's compensation claim. While a claim could have an adverse effect on your premium, underwriters are much more interested in how safe your business is over the long haul when determining how much your insurance will cost.

For larger businesses, an essential piece of the puzzle is the experience modification factor (e-mod), which seeks to determine how your business compares with other similar organizations. In short, if your environment is generally safer than your contemporaries, a single claim won't do much to change your policy and you will likely maintain a premium that is lower than your competitors. A similar principle applies to smaller businesses, which may or may not have an e-mod depending on the number of employees (along with some other factors). With or without an e-mod score, however, underwriters are still essentially just looking at your claim history versus any new or pending claims.

More than just maintaining a work environment that is as safe as possible, employers can also take measures that will be a positive signal to underwriters after a claim. For example, bringing employees back to work quickly can be an important sign of a healthy work environment, although clearly this has to be done on a case-by-case basis. While the last thing an employer wants to do is place an unrecovered worker back into a dangerous situation, moving a recovering employee to modified duty and/or offering reduced hours can be a simple way to balance the needs of both the employee and the business. Seeing an employee back at work – even if it's for light duty – can be a positive sign for both the insurance underwriter and for the morale of the team.

Because many work environments have unavoidable risks and dangers, what matters is how an employer prepares the environment to the best of his or her ability and how employees are treated after an injury occurs. By placing safety in the foreground at all times and responding appropriately when injuries occur, employers can avoid negative patterns that could have a much bigger effect on an insurance premium than a single injury.

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