By Mark Kozeal, Director of Product Management, Bloomberg Environment
Every year, millions of U.S. workers suffer from on-the-job injuries or illnesses. For employers, these incidents not only compromise the health of their workers, but also their businesses. Establishing a strong culture of safety is critical for protecting workers, minimizing compliance risk and liability, optimizing workplace productivity, and staying competitive.
When safety mistakes are made and incidents happen, the consequences can be costly for businesses. In 2016, 3.53 million workers were injured or fell ill on the job, a Bureau of Labor Statistics report found – and workers’ compensation and emergency room visit data suggest that figure may actually be even higher. Workplace injuries and accidents that cause employees to miss six or more days of work cost U.S. employers $59.9 billion a year, according to a 2017 study, and workers spend a median eight days away from work after an incident occurs.
Whether employees work on a factory floor or in a high-rise office, hazards like falls, overexertion, chemicals, cluttered work spaces, slippery floors and even intoxicated workers can put themselves and everyone around them at risk. While the federal government has set certain workplace safety guidelines in place, it’s incumbent upon business executives to ensure that they not only comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, but also other relevant issues and standards that impact employee well-being.
Knowledge is power
Monitoring the latest safety trends and regulatory changes is critical for executives looking to bolster their workplace health and safety efforts, as well as improve productivity and financial performance. By keeping informed of current issues, employers are better equipped to make the right decisions for their employees and their businesses. Staying on top of rapidly evolving regulations and standards is easier said than done, however.
In addition to new federal regulations, such as OSHA’s updated fall protection rules, companies need to keep up with a patchwork of state regulations as well as consensus standards. . Reporting requirements are also increasing with the advent of OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule, which mandates that organizations submit data on injuries and illnesses electronically. Companies with more than 250 workers and those from certain high-risk industries were required to file 2017 data by December 15, with reporting deadlines for other businesses beginning next March. Those that don’t keep up with these changes face regulatory penalties, as well as increased risk for serious safety incidents.
Turning data overload into actionable insights
For safety executives, rolling out a comprehensive safety program is just the beginning of the process, not the end goal. Ensuring that workers remain safe on the job requires constantly monitoring regulatory changes as well as workplace conditions, and making adjustments as needed. Here’s where to start.
- Perform an environmental scan. Evaluating existing programs can help businesses identify areas of strength, as well as potential gaps. Ensure equipment is in good repair, the workplace is kept clean and free of debris, and workers receive appropriate training on safety procedures, such as when and how to wear protective equipment. In addition, consider new technology or other investments that may help you improve worker safety and productivity.
- Stay on top of news and regulations. With the sheer volume of information available, businesses need a strategy to filter out the noise so they can focus on what’s truly relevant. To turn the data deluge into plain-English, usable information, consider these techniques:
- Customizable monitoring alerts based on your industry, location and other key factors can provide an instant snapshot of what needs your attention, while tracking tools help you ensure your team is meeting the latest standards.
- Curated news feeds let you monitor the pulse of current events, trends and innovation while eliminating time spent sifting through irrelevant information.
- Expert analysis on the latest safety policy and regulatory decisions gives you a practical road map for implementing changes across your own organization.
- Solicit feedback. Talking to your industry colleagues and your team about what’s working and what’s not can help you spot potential issues with your safety program before they turn serious. Spend time with trade associations and your professional network to uncover best practices, such as new safeguarding tools for machinery or effective employee training platforms. In addition, your team is your best resource for understanding what’s happening on the ground and where additional resources or training are needed.
Protecting workers on the job is a complex task, and the rapid pace of industry and regulatory change complicates matters even further. By staying informed about the latest requirements and trends, employers can boost workplace efficiency, minimize liability and ensure workers go home safely to their families every night.
Mark Kozeal is the Director of Product Management for Bloomberg Environment, a leading source of legal, regulatory, and business information for professionals. Contact: MKozeal@bloombergenvironment.com