Nearly 3 million on-the-job injuries occur each year. These injuries may often result in significant disruptions and costs to your company, as well as your employees and their families. While not all are considered serious, more than one-third of on-the-job injuries require time off work to facilitate recovery.
Workplace injuries happen for a variety of reasons. From changes in process or technology to simply ensuring employees can do their job most effectively, it is important to assess and reassess existing programs and how they serve the needs of your organization. A proactive approach to injury prevention and treatment in the workplace not only benefits the bottom line but also demonstrates that the organization values its most prized asset: its employees.
Why Are There so Many Workplace Injuries?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), here are five reasons why there is a growing need for injury prevention and treatment programs.
- Automation of work. Technology, computers, and robotics are being integrated into our workplaces, often introducing new and perhaps unexpected hazards.
- Greater workforce diversity. People from different backgrounds and cultures are working alongside each other, resulting in the possibility of different languages creating communication barriers. Misunderstandings resulting from communication issues increase the likelihood of accidents.
- An aging workforce. The rise of sedentary work and lifestyles means that some workers are at higher risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
- No industry is completely safe. There is greater recognition that workers in industries some consider safe (such as health care, lodging, retail, and transportation) face significant hazards.
- Increased temporary and contract employment. Traditional relationships between workers and employers are shifting, and changes in safety programs and policies will be required to ensure the safety of all workers.
We know workplace injuries can be costly from a business standpoint. And we know there is a long list of reasons why so many of these injuries occur. But the big question remains: What can you do to prevent injuries at work, and how does it impact your business?
To best answer that question, I thought I’d give you a few firsthand examples of real companies that have used workplace injury prevention programs to not only create a safer work environment but also improve the bottom line:
- Challenge: An energy company’s office team experienced an increased number of injuries and illnesses, meaning higher medical and disability costs, plus absenteeism.
- How an injury prevention program helped solve it: An ergonomics program helped prevent repetitive motion injuries, resulting in a 74% success rate in its first year (currently at 92%) in addressing early signs and symptoms before escalation to medical.
- Challenge: An automotive company was seeing an increase in the number of injuries, resulting in increased OSHA recordables rates, absenteeism, and short- and long-term disability. It needed a broad injury treatment and prevention program for 9,000 employees across multiple facilities.
- How an injury prevention program helped solve it: New programs were implemented, including new hire work conditioning, early intervention, self-care, preshift warm-up exercises, first-aid follow-ups, and a 9-week exercise conditioning program. The business results were significant:
- 90% resolution of musculoskeletal disorders
- 83% resolution of reported discomfort
- $2.5 million in cost avoidance, which is determined by the number of participants multiplied by an average cost of an OSHA recordable from ergonomic injuries
- Challenge: A manufacturing company experienced an increase in injuries and illnesses among new hires, resulting in increased OSHA recordable rates, worker compensation costs, and higher turnover.
- How an injury prevention program helped solve it: The program this manufacturer implemented assesses work tasks and safety practices before, during, and after the hiring process to ensure new hires meet the requirements of the job and are properly trained. Ultimately, this proactive approach resulted in decreased OSHA recordable rates by 60% in the first year and another 18% the following year. Additionally, fewer OSHA recordables meant a savings of $12,000 to $25,000 per case.
- Challenge: Med-tech giant Boston Scientific noticed employees at its Maple Grove, Minn., manufacturing facility were experiencing an increasing number of ergonomic injuries and realized it needed to fix the existing program—and proactively eliminate or reduce the risk of injuries and help employees stay safe and pain-free.
- How an injury prevention program helped solve it: Boston Scientific was shown how to create an ergonomic stretching program, with movements tailored to each work station. The key to engagement was making it fun, which meant two things: The first was a musical cue to announce room-wide stretch breaks. And the song of choice was none other than the theme song of the most storied and celebrated villain in movie history: Darth Vader. Cue the “Imperial March!” The second was visible support and participation from the company’s leadership—at every level. Once the musical cue comes on, everyone in the room has to stretch—from executives to engineers to safety managers to production workers. When everyone participates, everyone wins and the business benefits.
Remember, injury treatment and prevention programs protect your most valuable resource—your employees—while allowing them to reach optimal performance and maximize productivity while on the job. Employees who feel supported and safe at work contribute to the well-being of the business in the long run.
Nicole Chaudet is the executive director, product execution, with HealthFitness. She is charged with leading the team that takes new products, services, and product enhancements to market. She has been delivering employee well-being programs and solutions, both on-site and in a consultative role, for more than 20 years.