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Why a safe, healthy workplace is good for the bottom line

According to the Bureau of Labor Statics, nearly 3 million on-the-job injuries occurred in 2017. At any given time, this could mean 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 in order to recover.

Safety must be a priority on the job. A proactive approach to injury prevention and treatment in the workplace is good for the bottom line and demonstrates a strong commitment to the well-being of an organization's employees.

Because injuries happen for a variety of reasons, from changes in process or technology or simply ensuring employees can do their job most effectively, it is important to assess and re-assess existing programs and how they serve the needs of your organization.

Why Are There So Many Workplace Injuries?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are a number of reasons why there is a growing need for injury prevention and treatment programs.

First, work is becoming more automated. Technology, computers, and robotics are being integrated into our workplaces, often introducing new and different hazards.

There's also more diversity in our workforce than ever before. People from different backgrounds and cultures are working alongside each other which can impact communication and potentially create barriers.

And, that same workforce is aging. The rise of sedentary work and lifestyles means that some workers are at higher risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Finally, there has been an uptick in 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.

There is no question that workplace injuries can be costly from a business standpoint. And, as mentioned above, we also know there is a long list of reasons why injuries are occurring. The question that remains: What can you do prioritize safety in the workplace and does it impact your business?

In order to best answer those questions, I thought I'd give you a few first-hand examples of companies we've collaborated with at HealthFitness that have used workplace injury prevention and treatment programs to not only create a safer work environment, but also benefit the bottom line:

Example #1: 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. They needed a broad injury prevention and treatment program for 9,000 employees across multiple facilities.

We addressed these challenges by implementing a series of new programs, including new hire work conditioning, early intervention, self-care, pre-shift warm-up exercises, first aid follow-ups, and a nine-week exercise conditioning program. The business results were significant:

  • 90 percent resolution of musculoskeletal disorders
  • 83 percent 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.

Example #2: A manufacturing company experienced an increase in injuries and illnesses among new hires, resulting in increased OSHA recordable rates, workers' compensation costs, and higher turnover.

We worked with this manufacturer to implement a program that assessed work tasks and safety practices before, during, and after the hiring process to ensure new hires met the requirements of the job and were properly trained. Ultimately, this proactive approach resulted in decreased OSHA recordable rates by 60 percent in the first year and another 18 percent the following year. Additionally, fewer OSHA recordables meant a savings of $12,000 to $25,000 per case.

Example #3: Med-tech giant Boston Scientific noticed employees at its Maple Grove, Minn. manufacturing facility were experiencing an increasing number of ergonomic injuries and decided to fix the existing program—and proactively eliminate or reduce the risk of injuries to help employees stay safe and pain-free.

In partnership with our onsite team, Boston Scientific worked to create an ergonomic stretching program, with movements tailored to each work station. The key to success was making it fun, which meant using a musical cue to announce room-wide stretch breaks. The song of choice? None other than the theme song of the most storied and celebrated villain in movie history, Darth Vader. Cue the "Imperial March"! Visible support and participation from the company's leadership—at every level—was also a key factor in the success of this program. Once the musical cue comes on, everyone in the room has to stretch, from executives to engineers, safety managers, and production workers. When everyone participates, everyone wins and the business benefits.

Example #4: An energy company's office team experienced an increased number of injuries and illnesses, meaning higher medical and disability costs, plus absenteeism.

We partnered with this energy company to develop an ergonomics program that helped prevent repetitive motion injuries, resulting in a 74 percent success rate in its first year (currently at 92 percent) in addressing early signs and symptoms prior to escalation to medical.

Protecting your most valuable resource—your employees—is always good business. A focus on safety and injury prevention ensures the business can maximize productivity and optimize performance. There is no question that employees who feel supported and safe at work contribute to the well-being of the business in the long run, and this is good for everyone.

This article first appeared in Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) magazine

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.

Posted on February 10, 2019 in Injury Prevention