How Workplace Injuries Can Seriously Affect Your Bottom Line
Private-sector employers in California are responsible for complying with the state’s workplace safety and health laws, overseen and enforced by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA). Businesses that fail to adhere to California’s myriad of safety standards and orders can face significant penalties for noncompliance.
Employees in all industries in California are exposed to a variety of safety hazards unique to their occupations. However, some dangers exist across the board, and all workers are vulnerable as workers' compensation claims reveal that certain injuries occur more frequently than others. They can happen in offices, warehouses, or construction sites – pretty much anywhere, and at any time.
Most business owners recognize that their employees are their greatest assets. By creating safe environments, workplace injuries that result in lost days on the job can be minimized and negative effects on productivity – and ultimately the bottom line – can be lessened.
Even when business owners do take appropriate workplace safety precautions and measures to avoid injuries, accidents will happen. They’re inevitable. It’s how employers prepare for, and respond to, these accidents that can make all the difference in achieving the best possible outcomes.
Workplace Injury Statistics
According to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, there were approximately 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers. That’s a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time workers.
In another recent report from the State of California Department of Industrial Relations, more than 460,000 workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in one year, which computes to a rate of 3.8 cases per 100 full-time workers.
Most Common Workplace Injuries
Of the 10 most common injuries on the job, the majority are random incidents. From a survey of leading insurance companies around the country, here are the top 10 reported workplace injuries:
These include injuries related to pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying, and throwing activities at work. Overexertion has consistently been the number one workplace injury.
The second most common workplace injury results from falls on wet, slippery floors or trips over something lying on the floor.
Falling from Heights
This happens when an employee falls from an elevated area such as a roof or a ladder. The fall can be caused by slip and fall accidents or due to faulty equipment.
These are injuries caused by slipping and tripping without falling. These incidents can cause muscle injuries, body trauma, and a variety of other medical issues.
Falling Object Injuries
Objects that fall from shelves or dropped by another person can cause very serious injuries. Head injuries are a common result of this type of accident.
‘Walking Into’ Injuries
These occur when an employee accidentally runs into or collides with walls, doors, cabinets, glass windows, tables, chairs or any other surface that results in injury. Head, knee, neck, and foot impairment are common results.
Employees who drive for business purposes may be injured in auto accidents, some of which can be fatal.
This type of injury usually occurs in a factory where heavy equipment and machinery are used.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
This workplace injury is less obvious but definitely harmful in the long run for the employee. Repetitive motions can strain muscles and tendons causing back pain, vision problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Attacks caused by office politics and other arguments have led to serious physical injuries. Workplace violence employee training and employee diligence in watching out for suspicious activities can help keep these incidents at bay.
Indirect Costs of Workplace Injuries
The indirect costs of a workplace accident can run anywhere from 4 to 10 times the amount of direct costs. In some cases, indirect costs can be 20 times higher.
Whether it’s a car crash in a company vehicle or an employee’s fall from a ladder, when an accident occurs, your company has lost one of its most important assets – the employee.
Indirect costs include lost productivity, training and compensating replacement workers, loss of business, and administrative time to process the paperwork involved.
When an employee is not able to work, overall productivity will decline. Co-workers might assume additional responsibilities temporally, which will have a negative impact on the time and focus they have for their own job responsibilities.
Training Replacement Workers
Hiring and training a new employee can be very expensive and time-consuming; the type of training necessary to bring an employee up to speed impacts costs. On the job training, where workers perform their tasks and learn as they go, is relatively affordable, while lengthy induction training – training you provide for workers before they’re ready to begin job functions – can incur even higher costs. In addition to the entry wages you pay trainees, you must also cover costs for training staffs' salaries or the cost of off-site courses.
Another indirect cost you’ll incur is for the hours spent processing the documentation and paperwork that’s part of the process.
Direct Costs Can Be Substantial
The importance of complying with Cal/OSHA safety regulations is extremely important. The consequences for failing to do so can be extreme:
Complying with OSHA regulations is essential. Penalties for noncompliance include the following:
- General violations: Up to $7,000 per violation
- Serious violations: Up to $25,000 per violation
- Willful or repeat violations: Up to $70,000 per violation
- Failure to abate: Up to $15,000 per day
- Failure to report serious injury or illness or death of an employee:
- A minimum penalty of $5,000
In addition, Cal/OSHA violations can also result in significant criminal penalties against employers. Penalties can include fines in the millions of dollars and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the violation.
Employees who are injured on the job are eligible to collect workers' compensation benefits while they recuperate. Although the claim process is intended to be straightforward, there are specific guidelines for determining whether a certain injury or illness qualifies for compensation, and certain procedures must be followed.
Fatal Workplace Injuries and Death Benefits
Losing an income earner can be financially straining for a family. When the death of a person would not have occurred but for an on-the-job injury, the deceased’s surviving family members may be entitled to more benefits than those provided by your workers’ compensation coverage.
Cost for Legal Services
We all know that legal counsel comes with a price. You’ll need to work closely with your attorney to resolve any workplace injury incident.
Accident Investigation and Record Keeping
Regardless of the nature or severity of the employee’s injury, an accident investigation and accurate accounting of a claim is essential. Ultimately, there will be additional costs for accident investigation and record keeping.
Workplace Injury Prevention and Safety Measures
A safe workplace is essential for maintaining workforce morale and staying competitive. The costs of workplace accidents – in terms of lost time and productivity, property damage, health care costs, employee compensation costs, and employee morale – can destabilize your business.
An important thing to realize is that most workplace injuries can be prevented. The California State University at Fullerton found that only 4 percent of injuries that occur each year are due to technical issues or faulty equipment.
In many cases, accidents are not just caused by a small mistake or a simple mishap from a busy worker. Many workplace accidents are tied to employer or employee negligence. Although there’s no shortage of ways people can injure themselves at work, there are various procedures employers can put in place to prevent employees from coming to avoidable harm.
Along with covering employees with Workers’ Compensation insurance, the best way to keep the workplace safe is by enforcing safety rules and training:
Incorporate a Safety and Wellness Plan
The foundation for a safe work environment is an effective accident prevention and wellness program. The program needs to cover all levels of employee safety and health with the encouragement to report hazardous practices or behavior.
Conduct Pre-Employment Screenings
Some accidents are caused by inexperienced employees and their inability to physically perform the position. Screening applicants is a safeguard for placement with the appropriate positions matching their physical capabilities.
Educate Employees and Management Staff
Continually cultivate a safety standard among employees and management staff. Train employees about the importance of following safety measures as often as possible. Supplemental training in body mechanics can reduce strain injuries, and keep employees safe during lifting and moving.
Research Safety Vulnerabilities
Every business is unique and doesn’t necessarily have the same safety concerns. Pay extra attention to common accidents and develop strategies to keep these setbacks from happening.
Provide Protection Equipment
Personal protection equipment is essential and should be enforced at hiring, meetings, and with spontaneous monitoring. Take time to teach employees how to properly use goggles, face protection, gloves, hard hats, safety shoes, and earplugs or earmuffs.
Have Adequate Staffing Levels
More often than not, overtime hours are implemented because of low staffing levels. Overworked employees may suffer from exhaustion and cut corners to meet or exceed output. Hiring part-time or seasonal staff could help prevent accidents due to exhaustion.
Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standard Violations in 2017
Here’s a list of OSHA’s top ten violations in fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017) and how you can avoid them:
- Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Fall Protection–Training Requirements (29 CFR 1926.503) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
Don’t take shortcuts. The ramifications could be disastrous.
This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice. Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.