While you may associate workplace injuries with high-risk industries such as construction, business in all sectors and with vastly different environments experience workplace dangers.
Employers whose workers perform high-intensity physical work or handle heavy machinery need to take extra care, but all business owners need to actively enforce safety measures.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report, 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2018. With this staggering figure in mind, employers should take all precautions necessary to prevent accidents from occurring. Even if office settings, business owners can take action to minimize “everyday” physical stress on employees.
Official Guidelines for Workplace Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 made it mandatory for businesses within the private sector to comply with a set standard of workplace safety. On the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, employers can find a summarized list of employer responsibilities regarding a safe and stable work environment.
OSHA’s national-level standards apply to businesses within any state that does not have its own health and safety plans approved by the Department of Labor. Such states, referred to as state plan states, include North and South Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington.
Employers not only have to adhere to safety guidelines and develop operational procedures, but they also have to communicate expectations clearly to all employees and provide proper training. Furthermore, OSHA requires employers to prominently display notices that explain employee rights and responsibilities pertaining to health and safety.
In addition to observing health and safety guidelines, employers must keep records of compliance and issue frequent safety reports. Should a workplace fatality take place, the employer must notify OSHA within eight hours.
Safety Tips for “Low-Risk” Industries
No matter how calm or non-hazardous a work environment may seem, employers have to take health and safety seriously. Keep in mind that soreness and pain are among the most commonly reported workplace injuries.
To reduce risks in an office setting, employers can:
- Facilitate health and wellness programs, such as employee gym memberships
- Invest in ergonomic chairs and desks
- Encourage employees to take breaks to stretch and rest their eyes from computer strain
- Enforce organization and cleanliness to limit slip, trip, and fall hazards
- Provide proper lighting
Which Industries Have the Highest Risk?
Workers’ compensation insurance providers use code classifications to represent the level of risk each industry subjects its workers. Based on 2018 data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics determined how frequently fatal injuries occur in the following occupational groups, with 1. having the highest frequency.
- Transportation and material moving
- Construction and extraction
- Management, business, and financial operations
- Farming, fishing, and foresty
- Professional and related
- Sales and related
- Office and administrative support
Enforcing Safety in “High-Risk” Industries
What can employers in high-risk industries do to reduce the risk of injuries and illnesses? First and foremost, they should adhere to all legal requirements. However, the best employers go the extra mile when it comes to health and safety. Strategies for improving safety in more dangerous work environments include:
- Perform regular risk assessment audits
- Maintain proper signage
- Regularly check machinery for any malfunction
- Have daily safety briefings for all employees engaging in hazardous or physically demanding work
- Fostering accountability between employees
- Create an environment in which employees feel comfortable reporting safety errors or giving suggestions
- Provide all the proper safety gear and equipment required for a task
- Prioritize cleanliness and organization
- Implement engineering controls
When Accidents Happen
Part of ensuring workplace safety is putting measures in place to support your employees should an accident occur. After an injured employee receives proper medical care, they should file a workers compensation claim. Workers’ comp insurance benefits will cover medical expenses and provide a percentage of the employee’s wages lost during recovery.
All enterprises in almost every U.S. state legally have to purchase a workers’ comp policy. However, the level of risk associated with your industry will determine how much you pay for coverage. Naturally, businesses in high-risk fields pay more for workers’ comp insurance.
Creating a Culture
As a business owner, the most important thing you can do is create and maintain a culture of valuing your employees and prioritizing their health and safety. To reduce the risk of injury, work closely with your employees to come up with creative solutions, and to foster an atmosphere of accountability.