How to Get Safe and Avoid Violations | Gorbel's Fall Protection Tips

by
Emma Percy
| Sep 14, 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.

In part one, we talked about understanding OSHA violations and the impact of workplace injuries on premiums. Let's take a look at other ways you can ensure you're covering all of your bases when it comes to workplace falls and injuries. 

Lowered productivity and morale.

A single injury can have a butterfly effect on the rest of your team, as human nature tends to take over. Beyond the time it takes to clean or clear up a site after an injury, employees might have to be moved into unfamiliar roles out of necessity, which also increases the likelihood of both injury and loss of productivity. Additionally, it takes time to train new employees, assist the injured worker, file reports, change schedules, and deal with any other logistically problems that might arise. Ultimately, employers will have a scrambled and shorthanded team that is outside of its comfort zone, which is a clear path to lowered productivity.

This is why the best employers already have a plan in place before an injury to help mitigate any lingering effects. One of the best ways to help your team after an injury is to simply have a good understanding of the skills of your workers. Knowing beforehand which workers are versatile, which ones learn quickly on the job, and which ones are natural leaders who can help step up in a dire situation can make a huge difference in maintaining productivity – or at least in slowing its decline.

This also is more incentive to have a system in place to bring back an employee onto the floor as soon as it's appropriate. While this should be a positive for your premium as well (as noted above), the negative psychological effects on a team can be significantly limited when a worker is quickly placed back on the job, even if it's in a capacity of just answering phones or providing oversight to the team. Even in the era of constant communication outside of the workplace, an absent employee for an extended period of time can lead to rumors, misinformation, and ultimately to dips in productivity. Correspondingly, a system that brings back an employee quickly will also increase transparency, another benefit that can lead to elevated productivity.  

Having a recovering employee handling appropriate tasks will not only allow the worker's expertise to remain part of the team during recovery, but it also signals to other employees that an employer is taking care of the needs of both the worker and the team at large. There is one caveat, however. While bringing an employee back on the floor can be great for morale and help recover productivity, employers have to be very careful not to do it sooner than is appropriate, or to place the recovering worker in a situation he or she is not equipped to handle. Instead of enhancing morale and productivity, the effect is likely to be the opposite.

 

Other costs to consider.

If there is an unfortunate workplace injury that takes place, savvy employers and managers will address and report the injury immediately for a variety of reasons, including lowering the chances that an employee will feel compelled to seek outside legal counsel. While all employees certainly have a right to enlist an attorney, employers that quickly address the situation head-on will send a signal to employees that everything is being handled in an above-board manner. Clearly communicating to the injured employee about wage replacement payments and medical care can go a long way in reducing anxiety and maintaining confidence in the employer. Ultimately, the cost of worker's comp claims for the business tends to increase when an attorney is included in the process, which can usually be avoided by attentive employers who are upfront with employees.

Delaying the reporting and treatment of an injury – even a relatively minor one – can also have a ripple effect, especially for relatively small teams. While an employee might wish to push through a perceived minor injury, an injury that festers and doesn't heal properly can lead to expensive surgeries and rehabilitation programs down the road. Delayed treatment might mean the difference between losing a worker for a very short period of time and having to hire new workers to fill the gap during an extended recovery. If an employee insists that an injury is not worth reporting, it is critical to follow-up with the employee in the days and weeks afterwards to ensure everything is healing correctly. This dynamic only confirms the need for employers to keep very good records of injuries at all times.

Preventing injuries, PPE and final thoughts.

Workplace injuries will significantly test the mettle of any employer, as a single injury can shakeup an entire team, lower productivity, and possibly even bring about legal action. With severe OHSA penalties for noncompliant employers and the possibility of significantly raised premiums if patterns of unsafe work environments emerge, an employer's duty is to both the workers and to the bottom line of the business as a whole. That's why many employers institute active Injury/Illness Prevention programs that can help seek out potential problems before they can have a negative effect on the business.

In addition to an active prevention program and great recordkeeping, ensuring that your team has the right safety equipment to prevent – or limit the severity of – injuries is an absolute must. While the Department of Labor and OSHA have legal requirements for safety equipment, there's good reason to go beyond their standards when possible. Appropriate personal protective equipment (often called PPE) isn't just a something that will help you avoid a hefty OSHA penalty; credible estimates suggest that every dollar spent on PPE should mean saving at least two dollars that would go to the costs of injuries. At the top end of the trajectory, one dollar spent on PPE could mean as much as six dollars saved on the back end.

But the solution also doesn't have to be overly complicated either. By following rules and regulations, regularly stressing the importance of safety, and staying up-to-date with appropriate safety equipment, you will be in a good position to ward off as many injuries as possible. When unfortunate injuries do happen, however, having a system in place to transform the team along with transparency with employees will go a long way in maintaining the overall health and safety of your business. Like with many aspects of business, failure to address safety problems both before and after they arise will have an enormous impact on the bottom line and functionality of a business.  

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