Entrepreneurs need to take workplace injuries seriously. That means having both preventative strategies to reduce workplace injuries and the right attitude to address injuries when they arise. Someone is injured on the job every seven seconds, adding up to more than 12,600 workplace injuries every day, and more than 4.6 million workplace injuries every year.
When a worker gets injured, there's a cascading wave of negative effects for your business. Obviously, you should be concerned that one of your employees is hurt; this is a negative experience for a worker who may question their loyalty to the business after experiencing it. You'll lose productivity for the time they take to recover. Your insurance rates might go up. Your reputation may be damaged in the eyes of your employees (as well as the eyes of the general public).
Additionally, cases can get complex, depending on the circumstances. For example, according to Console and Associates, "there is often more than one company or business entity present ... In many cases, an upper tier contractor (often responsible for overall site construction) will hire several lower tier contractors to help complete needed projects. In these cases, the lower tier contractor is not a direct employee of the upper tier contractor, and this has many implications when it comes to injuries." In an egregious case, your employee, contractor, or subcontractor may attempt to sue you for damages. Lawsuits tend to be both expensive and complex, and should be avoided at all costs.
Fortunately, with the right approach, you can prevent most injuries and make sure the onsite injuries you do experience have minimal impact on your budget, your reputation, and your long-term operations.
How to Prevent Workplace Injuries
These steps can help you prevent the majority of workplace injuries:
- Document your safety policies. First, create and write down the safety policies of your organization. Which steps can employees take to reduce the risk of injury? For example, is there protective equipment they should wear? Are there procedural steps they can take? Are there certain habits or behaviors to avoid?
- Identify key vulnerabilities. Inspect your workplace regularly for key vulnerabilities. Are there pieces of equipment that seem especially dangerous? Are your employees vulnerable during certain phases of your operation?
- Hold training and education sessions. Routinely hold safety meetings to train and educate your employees on the proper methodologies and habits for the workplace. Test them to make sure they've retained this information.
- Provide protective equipment. In many organizations, protective equipment should be mandatory. These pieces of equipment include (but aren't limited to) goggles, helmets, earplugs, and gloves.
- Supervise the execution of safety measures. Someone needs to be responsible for monitoring employees and ensuring they're following all the correct safety procedures. Make sure there's a supervisor available at all times.
- Keep the workplace clean and organized. A clean, organized workplace is much less likely to be home to a workplace injury. Take the time to put things in order.
- Foster a culture that prioritizes safety. This is possibly the most important tip on this list--build workplace safety into your culture. Make sure all your employees know that you take workplace safety seriously, and don't tolerate jokes or flippant attitudes about safety procedures. Discipline people who violate safety procedures and reward those who follow them.
- Don't take shortcuts. Always follow your procedures exactly. Don't allow shortcuts just because they save a little time or effort.
It's also important to note the value of workers' compensation insurance in financially protecting both you and your workers in the event of an injury. This is a requirement in most states, but is recommended even in states that don't require it.
How to Respond to a Workplace Injury
If you've followed these steps, but an injury has still occurred, there are some immediate steps you can take to minimize the damage:
- Get immediate medical attention. This should be obvious, but call for medical attention for the person who was injured immediately. The faster you get them help, the more likely they'll recover.
- Improve safety in the area to prevent further injuries. Take the time to clear the area of people and inspect the environment for factors that could lead to further injuries. For example, is there malfunctioning equipment in this area that needs to be shut down? Is the area unclean or disorganized?
- Document the incident. Thoroughly document the incident, including the nature of the injury, the steps that led up to the injury, and what you did once you learned the injury occurred. Make sure all your supervisors are trained to do this as well.
- Follow up. After the initial incident, it's important to follow up with your employee to see how they're doing. It's also important to review your safety procedures and see if there's anything you can adjust to improve safety in future similar situations.
This two-pronged approach, allowing you to reduce the total number of workplace injuries you deal with while simultaneously improving how you handle workplace injuries when they arise, should minimize the potential impact of an onsite injury. The more proactive you are in these strategies, the better off you'll be.