Injuries and accidents can happen in any environment or industry at any time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 3.7 million recordable injuries and over 5000 work related fatalities in 2008. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment. It is the employee’s responsibility to work safely and to maintain a safe and healthy body with which to work. Employers should provide an ergonomically safe work environment and establish policies and procedures to improve safety in the work place. Employees should be educated about ways to care for their bodies and they should be aware of risk factors that increase their chance of fatigue or injury. A few strategies the employer can implement include:
Proper screening and testing of employee candidates during the hiring process. Be sure the applicant can safely perform the job for which they are being hired. Also document the current function and any impairment the applicant may have prior to hiring. This screening process should include a reliable, medically/legally defensible employment-testing program, which will effectively reduce work place injury incidence and work place injury costs. The program should be based upon objective scientific data and conform fully to EEOC Guidelines for application of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Proper training of your staff. Work injuries, work injury claims, and work injury costs are each driven by separate and distinct factors. Proper training of workers and of supervisors can effectively address the factors the drive injuries, claims, and costs. This includes their understanding about how injuries occur and can be prevented. This means your workers should understand how their body works and responds to the daily stresses placed on it. This is their most important piece of work equipment and they rely on it, their body, to earn a living for their families. They should be educated about how they can best care for it. It is their responsibility to take care of themselves so they can perform the job for which they are getting paid. Supervisors should understand who is most at risk for injury and should be educated about how to identify problems before they become costly and how to address ergonomic, safety, and potentially harmful areas before they become problematic. This allows them to be proactive instead of reactive in handling injuries, claims, and costs.
When injuries do occur, proper management is important. Demonstrate caring and understanding by getting the employee care quickly to address the condition. Work with health care providers that understand work injuries. Work injuries present with a variety of issues that affect the employee and the employer. It is important to have a good relationship with a health care provider that understands the need for quick care and understands the importance of keeping the employee working if possible without further injury. Work with the health care provider to establish modified duty guidelines for that worker that will allow them to stay on the job safely. Studies of work injuries clearly indicate that providing injured workers modified duty opportunities to safely keep them at work helps them to return to their normal job duties more quickly.
Provide a safe work environment. While it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain a healthy body to do the work, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment. Be sure the proper tools are available for the employee to do work safely. Reduce the risk of ergonomic injury by being sure the work station is set up safely to address at risk postures at the back, legs, shoulders, neck, arms, wrists, and hands. When risk factors cannot be reduced, implement frequent job rotation and stretching exercises to reduce the stress placed on the body. A job analysis can help to identify ergonomic concerns.
These are just a few strategies that have been effective for small and large employers in reducing work injury risks. For more information about these strategies and others, feel free to contact our office, your work comp carrier, or any work injury prevention specialist.