World-Class Safety--At Home
When employees know how to perform tasks properly, regardless of the location, this benefits everyone.
- By Randy DeVaul
- Dec 01, 2005
EMPLOYERS and employees have a vested interest in performing tasks safely at
work. Employers want to ensure their most valuable assets (their people) are
safe and protected from hazards while making sure they cover all of the
compliance requirements for establishing and maintaining a safe work environment
that is free of recognized hazards. Employees want to ensure they are able to
perform their tasks safely so they can stay employed while making sure they
don't adversely affect their quality of life or family's lifestyle from a
serious injury on the job.
Across the country, however, there is a great interest in off-the-job safety,
as well. A recent report indicated employers spend up to $38 billion annually on
costs associated with their employees or employee dependents being injured at
home. That is an average annual cost of $280 for every employee in the United
States. A survey conducted by the National Safety Council found nearly 60
percent of respondents said they believed the cost of off-the-job injuries is
greater than or equal to the cost of workplace injuries.
A proactive, world-class company strives to become better in the workplace
and more competitive in its market. It has mastered many of the compliance
issues and unsafe conditions that previously existed. This type of company
addresses employee practices and empowers employees to stop and correct
identified hazards to which they may be exposed. A world-class company has a
wellness program to help employees develop healthy habits. Such a program helps
both the employee and the employer. The aging workforce, smoking, nutrition and
diet, heart and blood pressure concerns, and other health-related issues have an
adverse affect on the employee's quality of life (at home and at work), while
also affecting their ability to perform tasks in a safe and healthy manner. A
world-class company recognizes the benefit to taking care of its employees for
the long term.
Now, the focus is on home safety. The annual costs of home injuries are
staggering, not to mention the pain and lifestyle changes that affect an injured
employee and family members. Having an employee call in to miss work because of
a back strain from moving furniture, a sprained ankle or knee from playing ball
with the kids, a fractured neck from slipping in the tub/shower, or being
fatally injured from an attempt to repair a light socket--such injuries have a
direct effect on a person's quality of life and his family's lifestyle. They
also directly affect the employer.
Counting the Costs
Employers face the loss of an experienced employee
in addition to the cost of health insurance, life insurance, sick leave and
disability, hiring and training new employees, and overtime for other employees
to take up the void of the injured worker. This does not include the time off
needed by an employee to care for a loved one who may have been injured.
The Home Safety Council's study found unintentional home injuries cause
nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits each year. An injury
resulting in a hospital stay costs an employer nearly $20,000 in addition to the
stress and changes on the employee and family experiencing such an injury. More
information on the council is available at www.homesafetycouncil.org.
What can a company do to increase home safety with its employees? Start by
having employees take current work safety practices home with them. Bring the
subject up in safety meetings or crew meetings. When training an employee on a
task, remind him that what he is learning at work applies to tasks at home, as
well. Many people think because the regulatory agencies aren't watching them at
home, they can take the shortcuts they know they can't take at work. Good work
practices, whether at work or at home, are still good work practices.
According to the National Safety Council, some 6,000 people die from falls in
and around the home every year. Many more suffer disabling injuries. Many of
these falls--130,000 each year--involve falling from "ladders." This includes
real ladders as well as makeshift ladders. If an employee knows the hazards
involved with ladders at work, those same hazards exist at home. When using the
wrong tool or using the right tool the wrong way, a person sets up events that
can alter life itself, if not the long-term quality of life. So knowing how to
perform tasks properly, regardless of the location, benefits everyone in getting
the job done and living to see another job that needs to be done.
Getting the Word Out
Provide a home safety section in the company
newsletter. The information gets into the homes and can be reviewed by other
family members, too. Partner with insurance carriers, associations, and local
businesses to conduct safety fairs periodically at work. These fairs provide
excellent information to take home and can offer family member participation.
The additional publicity for such an event provides a healthy byproduct: The
community knows the employer cares about its employees at all levels.
An employer that helps its employees and their families to be safe at work
and at home is making a smart business investment. Find ways to enhance the home
safety message at work through proper task training, take-home information,
newsletter focus, safety fairs, and other creative means. Your employees will
thank you for your concern and interest, which, in turn, will enhance your
employees' performance at work. It's a win-win for everyone.
This column appeared in the December 2005 issue of Occupational Health
This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.