Risk Management Blog - ClearRisk

Protecting Employees with Risk Management

Posted by Craig Rowe on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 @ 18:01 PM

Robert has been one of your most trusted employees for fifteen years. He is extremely hard working, dedicated to the organization and consistently goes above and beyond to make the company better.

While delegating tasks to your warehouse staff, Robert loses his footing and falls six feet from a platform to the floor below. He is badly hurt, spending months in recovery and is unable to return to work.

What do you tell his family? How do you replace him? What are the costs?

Unfortunately, accidents and situations like this happen far too often. Work-related injuries and illnesses devastate families and businesses with extreme financial and non-financial consequences.

In past entries, we’ve looked at employee safety-related topics like stress, liquor liability, the H1N1 flu virus and more. Today, we’re exploring workplace hazards and their associated costs and effects.

What are common workplace hazards?

  • Mechanical hazards (impact, slips and trips, equipment-related, etc.)
  • Physical hazards (noise, vibration, electricity, etc.)
  • Biological hazards (bacteria, virus, mold, etc.)
  • Chemical hazards (acids, bases, solvents, etc.)
  • Psychosocial (stress, violence, bullying, burnout, etc.)

Liberty Mutual’s 2009 Workplace Safety Index identifies the ten most disabling workplace injuries that accounted for an estimated $52 billion. This huge figure includes only directly linked U.S. workers compensation costs.

What are the top 10 causes of the most disabling injuries as identified by Liberty Mutual?

  • Overexertion (e.g. lifting, pushing, pulling) – $12.7 Billion
  • Fall on the same level (e.g. slips and trips) – $7.7 Billion
  • Fall to a lower level (i.e. fall from height) – $6.2 Billion
  • Bodily reaction (i.e. slipping or tripping without falling) – $ 5.4 Billion
  • Struck by object – $4.7 Billion
  • Highway incident – $2.5 Billion
  • Compression, being pinned against, caught in an object or piece of equipment – $2.1 Billion
  • Repetitive motion – $2.0 Billion
  • Struck against object – $2.0 Billion
  • Assaults ands violent acts – $0.6 Billion

Is there any good news? According to the United States Department of Labor, workplace injuries and illnesses declined significantly between the 2007 and 2008 released of their Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. While the specific reasons for the decrease are not known, we can hope that it’s because organizations are taking a more proactive approach to risk management and to employee safety with safer workplaces, reliable processes and safety training.

What can you do to better the safety of your employees and of your workplace?

  • Train and empower your employees to identify, mitigate and/or eliminate safety risks in the workplace.
  • Set risk management policies and processes to guide how tasks are completed. This can help to decrease variability and room for human error.
  • Communicate your safety policies and processes. Make them easily accessible and highly visible for all employees.
  • Properly document any accidents and near-incidents. This will help to identify problem areas and assist in having accurate information about the situation for future reference.
  • Maintain adequate insurance such as workers compensation, employment practices liability and other related coverages. At the very least your business should be protected financially from unexpected losses.
  • Encourage a culture of employee safety and risk management. If safety is made a part of everything you do, your culture will foster an environment of heightened risk awareness.

Remember the figure of $52 Billion spent in workers compensation. It is a huge amount of money dedicated to managing the claims of disabled workers. However, with that said, this figure only accounts for direct workers compensation costs in the United States. When you think about the other costs – the business disruption for the company, the personal disruption for the affected individual and their family – it is easy to see why employee safety is so important and why risk management is such a rewarding investment.

Related Resources from ClearRisk:

Photo Credit: hummingcrow vie flickr Creative Commons

Topics: workplace hazards, employee risk management, safety of employees