World-Class Safety--At Home

When employees know how to perform tasks properly, regardless of the location, this benefits everyone.

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 & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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