In challenging economic times, many companies face very difficult choices about where to allocate their limited resources. One area that is often cut when budgets are tight is workplace safety and/or loss control programs. However, this can lead to unintended consequences when considering the economic impact of workplace accidents.
The National Safety Council reports that the economy lost $163.9 billion in 2020 due to the direct and indirect costs associated with workplace injuries. That makes the average cost per medically consulted injury approximately $44,000. The good news is that the risk of workplace injuries can be reduced. Rather than cutting safety and/or loss control programs when they are most needed, strategic investments in these programs can provide employers with significant benefits, both in the short and long term.
It is clear that investing in a strong safety program can help prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace. Not only does this protect employees from harm, but it can also potentially save the company money by reducing workers̵7; compensation claims, insurance premiums and medical costs. A strong safety program can also reduce the costs associated with lost productivity due to employees being away from work, not to mention the extra time required to train employees in new tasks to replace an injured worker. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost to recruit a new employee is nearly $4,700, and the entire hiring process costs many times that amount.
In addition to protecting employees and reducing costs, investments in safety programs can also help companies comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and various government regulations, avoiding costly fines and/or compliance-related legal actions. Security rules, regulations, and guidelines are constantly evolving, so it’s important for companies to stay informed, ensure compliance, and have well-documented processes. Using the free expertise and resources available from their employees’ insurance companies is a good place for companies to start.
Companies can also benefit from working with safety organizations and experts from OSHA and NSC to stay up-to-date on the latest safety practices and regulations and gain valuable insights and resources to improve safety programs and ensure compliance. For example, OSHA offers free on-site consultations to small and medium-sized businesses, and the National Safety Council offers free educational webinars, toolkits, and posters to help with safety education.
Internally, safety programs can help improve employee morale and productivity. When employees feel safe and supported in the workplace, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to perform at their best. This can result in higher quality of work, better customer service, less absenteeism and ultimately increased profitability for the company.
According to AlertMedia’s 2023 State of Employee Safety Report, 81% of respondents believe that physical security is important in the workplace, while 71% of employees do not believe that their employers follow through on safety promises. This indicates a gap between how important workers consider safety and how many of them feel that their employers prioritize it. With 46% of respondents saying they are more likely to stay with an employer who truly cares about their safety, business owners should note how important a sense of safety in the workplace is to employee retention.
Another important part of a strong safety program is providing safety training for employees. This can include training in safety and emergency procedures, hazard identification and reporting, housekeeping and sanitation, and almost any topic relevant to the company’s operations. The key to an effective training program is to operationalize safety – by incorporating safety training into day-to-day operations, rather than something that just happens once a year.
This method of safety training can lead to a variety of positive results. It shows employees that safety is a priority for the business, as opposed to something that gets in the way of productivity. It also provides a kind of “drip irrigation” system for security awareness, so that employees are not expected to remember the one item from the eight-hour security training course provided by the vendor nine months ago. Finally, and I think most importantly, it works to create an atmosphere of interdependence, where employees start to look out for each other and are more likely to report unsafe behavior. It becomes the language of the workplace.
Investing in security means more than just policies and procedures, it’s also about creating a security culture within the company. This means promoting safety as a core value and encouraging employees to incorporate safety into their daily activities. A strong, positive safety culture can lead to greater employee engagement and ownership, which can further improve business results.
Finally, it is important for companies to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their security programs and make necessary adjustments. This may involve analyzing safety and accident data, soliciting regular feedback from employees and conducting real-time safety observations. By continually improving their security programs, companies can ensure they are providing the best possible protection for their employees, learn from their dynamic, ever-changing workplaces, and maximize their return on security investments.
In conclusion, investing in security software is a wise choice for businesses, even in challenging economic times. There is a large body of evidence that makes a very strong business case for health and safety in the workplace and employees want an employer who cares about their safety and well-being. By working to prevent workplace accidents and injuries, complying with regulations, engaging employees early and often, and building a strong, resilient culture, companies can reap significant benefits from these investments over time. It is important for companies to see security as an integral part of their business strategy and prioritize it accordingly.
Dan Killins is Director, Risk Advisory Services, for Employers Holdings Inc., which offers workers compensation insurance and services. He is based in Orlando, Florida and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.