Keeping your employees safe is good for business. Not only does it have a positive impact on morale, but it almost always improves your financial situation by boosting productivity and lowering workers’ compensation insurance costs. Following workers’ compensation safety tips, like the 10 listed below, can reduce on-the-job accidents.
1. Assess Your Hazards
While there are safety-related best practices in every industry, minimizing risks is seldom a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each business has its own set of hazards to address, and that requires:
- Reviewing your operations: The best way to do this is to walk through your business because while some risks are obvious, such as the possibility of injury in a restaurant kitchen, others are less so. Being in the location gives you a better idea of the hazards your employees face.
- Talking to workers: The people who perform tasks every day often have a better understanding of where the risks are and may have ideas of how to make their work safer.
- Analyzing past incidents: You want to look for patterns that might inform your safety procedures. For example, you might notice that injuries tend to happen at particular times of the day or in certain locations.
2. Put Together a Safety Manual
A written manual gives employees a clear understanding of your expectations regarding safety and minimizes the chance of miscommunication. Any time someone has a question or needs to do some training, they have a resource to reference. Moreover, many states and insurance carriers offer discounts on workers’ compensation insurance for having safety procedures in place.
3. Train Employees Regularly
Training a new employee on safety protocols is essentially a no-brainer, but most workers can benefit from regular refreshers. At the very least, you should hold safety training sessions once a year, but you might want to try regular short meetings too. This can help keep safety top of mind for your team while also demonstrating that you take injury prevention seriously.
The more interactive your training is, the better chance you have of it sticking in your workers’ heads, so you may want to try:
- Hypothetical scenarios
- Breakout sessions
- Incident reviews
Interactive training techniques like these have the added benefit of increasing the audience’s engagement. The more invested in safety your employees are, the more likely they are to follow procedures and speak up when they have concerns.
4. Keep COVID-19 in Mind
The coronavirus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so you want to do your best to minimize the risk of your employees contracting COVID-19. Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has plenty of information for businesses and workplaces that includes special considerations for particular industries, including restaurants and bars.
By now, we all have a good idea of what we need to do to protect one another but, for good measure, the procedures fall into three categories:
- Cleaning and disinfecting: High-touch areas, such as doorknobs and countertops, should be cleaned routinely to reduce exposure. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectants can also be used, or you can make your own by mixing 1/3 cup of bleach with one gallon of water. Disinfecting is especially important after an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Social distancing: If possible, you should look to modify workstations so employees can stay six feet apart. This might mean using areas not typically meant for work, such as break rooms or reception areas. You can also try staggering shifts or remote work to reduce the number of people in your space.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): Not every job requires PPE, so evaluate what’s appropriate for your employees’ various tasks. For example, you want to be wary of any PPE that could get caught in machinery for workers on an assembly line. If you have employees who need PPE, you may want to purchase it for them to make sure they use it.
That list is just a small sample of the CDC’s recommendations and only addresses general concerns.
5. Appoint a Safety Committee
Even though you’re the person paying the workers’ compensation premium, you need all of your employees to take safety seriously. One way to do this is to set up a safety committee consisting of trustworthy employees. This committee could then be responsible for:
- Identifying hazards
- Analyzing near-miss incidents
- Reviewing injuries
- Outlining safety procedures
6. Encourage Employees to Report Concerns
Another important step to getting your entire staff to care about safety is to encourage workers to report their concerns about work processes, unsafe equipment, or risky behaviors. However, be thoughtful about how you want to do this. Rewarding staff for having zero accidents can discourage employees from reporting situations that could cause problems. Instead, you can:
- Set up a clear reporting system: Employees are more likely to report concerns if they know the right steps to take.
- Allow workers to suspend operations: Empowering workers to shut down operations temporarily shows just how seriously you take safety.
- Let workers participate in solving problems: When workers are involved in creating safety procedures, they tend to be more invested in the results.
You may also want to give workers the opportunity to communicate concerns anonymously so that they don’t have to worry about repercussions.
7. Get the Proper Safety Gear
One of your responsibilities as an employer is to provide a workplace that is free from serious hazards, and a big part of that is safety gear. What type of safety equipment you need can range from no-slip shoes to full-body suits to harnesses and safety nets. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has several tools to help business owners figure out what gear their workers require based on the hazards they face.
Employers often purchase safety equipment for their workers, and OSHA requires employers to buy PPE when it’s needed to meet OSHA’s standards. However, OSHA regulations also say employers are responsible for making sure all safety equipment is adequate even when it’s owned by the worker.
8. Avoid Rotating Schedules and Long Shifts
According to studies reported by the Injury Facts from the National Safety Council (NSC), both reduced sleep and long work hours increase the risk for workplace injuries. One study showed injury rates are the highest for employees who work more than 60 hours a week (4.34 incidents per 100 workers) and regularly sleep less than five hours per night (7.89 incidents per 100 workers).
While you can’t control how much sleep your employees get, you can create schedules that encourage them to work with their body clock. You can do this by:
- Keeping set schedules: More than 41% of workers on a rotating schedule get less than seven hours of sleep every night, making them more likely to suffer an on-the-job accident. Setting a regular schedule gives them a chance to adjust their body clocks.
- Avoiding long shifts and overtime: Even just tacking on 10 hours to the workweek increases injury rates from 2.45 per 100 workers to 3.45.
9. Mandate Regular Breaks
Another way to combat tiredness in your employees is to encourage them to take regular breaks. Stepping away from work can boost your employees’ productivity, mental well-being, and creativity while also reducing muscle fatigue from repetitive motions.
As time passes, your workers can struggle to pay attention and maintain speed and accuracy on tasks, especially tedious ones. Regular breaks combat this time-on-task effect by giving employees an opportunity to refresh themselves, and that’s just as true for office workers as it is for manual laborers.
10. Label Hazards Clearly
OSHA specifies signs used for permanent workplace hazards, such as the emblem used for slow-moving vehicles. It’s important to use these standard tags and signs so that both workers and visitors to your business know where the risks are.
Temporary hazards need to be addressed immediately. For example, if there’s a spill that could cause someone to slip, you want to set out a caution sign and clean up the mess quickly.
How Workplace Safety Reduces Workers’ Compensation Costs
One of the biggest factors in your workers’ insurance premium is your claims history. Insurers see businesses with more claims than other similar businesses as riskier to insure, and they charge those businesses higher rates to counteract the possibility they will have to cover an expensive workers’ comp claim.
The flip side, however, is that having fewer claims can bring your costs down, and that starts with mitigating your risk. Even better? Filling fewer claims can also reduce the indirect expenses that come with workplace injuries, including the cost of:
- Investigating incidents
- Stopping work in the aftermath of an accident
- Hiring temporary or replacement workers
- Employees’ lost productivity as they take on the injured workers’ tasks
- Replacing damaged equipment
While you can’t eliminate all workplace accidents, you can use these workers’ comp safety tips to reduce your employees’ chances of suffering one, which is better financially and emotionally for all involved.