The National Safety Council estimates that workplace fatalities and injuries cost the economy $198.2 billion per year.

Even with these high statistics, safety is often an overlooked aspect in the workplace because of factors ranging from cost to lack of information.

Every employer knows that safety is important, but do you know why reinforcing safe work practices is vital from a legal and financial standpoint?

Defining Safety in the Workplace

Safety encompasses both aspects of an individual’s health and well-being—physical and psychological. It applies to the prevention of any and all injuries, accidents, or illnesses in the workplace.

Why Employers Should Care About Safety

Beyond the most important reason, which is keeping your employees safe and well, there are other reasons to pay attention to safety in the workplace.

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA): This law was set in place to ensure employers provide a workplace that is free from hazards that may cause harm to employees. Employers are lawfully required to comply with this act in accordance to their industry and state.
  • Liability: If the accident was due to faulty equipment or negligence on the part of the employer, it’s quite possible the employer may be liable for any accidents as a result.
  • Labor costs: When a worker is injured and can no longer work, the company experiences a loss of labor, which may result in additional costs of recruiting a new member to fill the injured person’s shoes, as well as the potential of overworking your existing employees to make up for their co-worker’s responsibilities.
  • Reputation: While this may not be a tangible element, any accidents that occur on a company’s premises reflects negatively on the business’s reputation.
  • Morale: Like mentioned above, injury and accidents puts strain on more than just the injured party. Not only does everybody involved have to deal with the results of an accident, but it leaves an unsettling feeling in the minds of other workers who may in turn be even more worried about their own personal safety.

What Employers Can Do

There are easy and cost effective ways to introduce and maintain safety in your business. First and foremost, safety should be a proactive approach, rather than reactive response to an incident.

The sooner you work towards getting safety systems in place, the less it will cost you in the long run.

Here are some ways to get your business heading in a safe direction:

Insist on safety training

No matter what industry you conduct business in, it’s important to reinforce safety when you first train employees. This may include handing out a safety manual or booklet to your employee during the onboarding process. Make sure your foreman, HR manager, or even yourself, reinforces the rules of safety for your company at this time.

Some examples may include simple things, such as where the first aid kit is, the location of the muster points for fire safety, safe lifting practices, and what to do in the event of an emergency. Information is critical to ingrain in your employees from the beginning so your bases are covered and they can respond to critical situations correctly.

Depending on your industry, you may want to consider offering advanced education on safety in the workplace, such as safe food handling for restaurant workers. Please note that some of these safety courses are mandatory for employees to complete before being employed in certain industries.

Provide safe options

While certain safety equipment is required on worksites (construction helmets, steel toe boots and harnesses), give your employees more than the very basic of options when it comes to their safety and let them know where to find the gear that they need.

For example, provide sunscreen to your employees if they will be working outdoors in warm conditions. Such extra amenities keep your employees comfortable and free from harm.

Maintain the workplace/worksite and equipment

Not only does maintenance apply to the premises or location itself, but it also applies to the equipment your employees will be using. For instance, in a building, stair rails should be secure, elevators serviced, and hallways tidy.

On a worksite, this may mean keeping areas free of debris and giving workers shade to take breaks in. Furthermore, when it comes to machinery, equipment or devices that the employees use to complete work, you must tend to regular maintenance to ensure all equipment works properly and is safe to operate.

Like mentioned above, it is up to you to keep equipment in working order or else you may be liable if injury is due to its malfunction. Other examples include: regularly servicing company vehicles, replacing or repairing outdated or broken tools, testing machinery, and much more.

Comply with employment and safety laws

Employment laws are put in place for the benefit of employees and employers alike, which is why each law exists as a rule and not an option. Some important rules to keep in mind are the OHSA and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which include restrictions on the working age, time of day and hours employees can work, as well as restrictions on the duties you can give to young employees. Familiarize yourself with this Act, as well as OSHA, so you comply accordingly.

Make your safety values known

If you practice the above suggestions, it is a strong indicator that you value safety. If you can show it, you should be able to communicate it to your employees verbally through meetings or one-on-one.

Psychological Threats to Safety

Physical accidents can be addressed and prevented, but first you must be mindful of underlying causes. According to a MySafetySign Health and Safety Survey, stress has now been proven as a huge hazard in the workplace and it often goes unnoticed. It plagues a lot of industries, especially within the health and manufacturing sectors. A worker’s lack of focus due to stress can be especially dangerous and may lead to negligent accidents. Workplace stress is usually caused by overwork, bullying, harassment or lack of breaks.

As an employer, it’s important to be mindful of these psychological factors so you can work to address them before it becomes a threat to safety. Encourage your employees to take breaks, nurture themselves, and communicate their problems. Any and all action you can take to alleviate the stress your employees are under will be better for your business—not only to decrease the risk of accidents but also to improve overall worker satisfaction and focus.

In Conclusion

Accidents happen every day in the workplace. After all, we are human and we make mistakes that can result in problems. As an employer, it is wise to be proactive in preventing these injuries to the best of your abilities, starting with training, action and regular maintenance of your workplace. If you find that your industry calls for it, enlist a safety professional to help run a safety program for your business.

For more information, review the SBA’s resources on Workplace Safety or visit the Department of Labor for an overview of employment laws pertaining to safety.


Posted by Kristy DeSmit

Kristy is a blogger, Twitter enthusiast, and company legalese interpreter.