According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace deaths and reported occupational injuries have dropped more than 60 percent since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed into law four decades ago. However, there continues to be an unacceptable number of work related fatalities, injuries and illnesses – many of which were preventable. Every year more than 4,500 workers die on the job and every year over 4.1 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury or illness.
Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are already required or encouraged by 34 states, not to mention many other countries. The reason is that they work. A good program is marked by 6 key characteristics:
Hazard Identification and Assessment
Hazard Prevention and Control
Education & Training
Program Evaluation & Improvement
The Liberty Mutual Research Institute reported that the direct cost of the most disabling injuries in the workplace in 2008 to be $53 billion dollars. Indirect costs to a business might include:
Any wages paid to injured workers for absences not covered by workers’ compensation;
The wage costs related to time lost through work stoppage;
Administrative time spent by supervisors following injuries;
Employee training and replacement costs;
Lost productivity related to new employee learning curves and accommodation of injured employees; and
Replacement costs of damaged material, machinery and property.
So it is just good business sense to not only improve regulatory compliance but also reap the financial benefits from a safer, healthier working environment. Each business is different and while individual programs need to be tailored to the unique needs, industry sector, size or complexity of the enterprise, reductions in injuries, illnesses and deaths and the needless suffering they cause make the development of a program imperative.
For information on how to develop a good Injury and Illness Prevention Program, contact OSHA or the Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations.