43: 4 Reasons You Need A Workplace Safety Program

4 Reasons You Need A Workplace Safety Program
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What kind of workplace safety program do you have?

What kind of workplace safety program do you have? Do you fly by the seat of your pants and leave safety to lady luck? Do you sorta have a safety program that you dust off once in awhile, maybe in reaction to a claim or your newly published experience modifier, or at your policy renewal when the premium goes up. Or, is it part of your culture, something you’re dedicate to? A way of doing business that includes employee communication, involvement and accountability?

If it isn’t already obvious to you why you need an effective workplace safety program then let me tell you 4 reasons why it’s critical that you have one. And the key word here is “effective”, which means an active working program that all your employees know about and follow.

1. On the job Injuries and illnesses reduce productivity and lower morale.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. According to the Department of Labor, numerous studies have examined the effectiveness of workplace safety programs.

This research demonstrates that they are effective in transforming workplace culture; leading to a reduction in injuries, illnesses and fatalities; lowering workers’ compensation and other costs; improving morale and communication; enhancing image and reputation; and improving processes, products and services.

These studies also highlight important characteristics of effective programs, which are:

  • Management commitment and leadership,
  • Effective employee participation,
  • Integration of health and safety with business planning; and
  • Continuous program evaluation.

2. You have a duty as an employer to provide a safe workplace, free from unnecessary hazards. 

It’s not possible to eliminate all hazards. The ones you can’t eliminate need to be mitigated — It’s your business, you are the expert, and you are morally obligated to make sure your employees aren’t exposed to unnecessary hazards.

3. Your premium is based on your past claims. 

When an insurance company quotes you a premium for your workers’ compensation insurance policy they are required to apply your experience modification rate which will either increase or decrease your cost. This is also referred to as an x-mod or just mod.

If you’ve had good experience you’ll have a credit mod. If you’ve had poor experience you’ll have a debit mod. Each state has a rating bureau that calculates the mod for every business. If you are a new business, or one with less than 3 years of policy history, then your mod is 1.0 or “par”, and your premium neither goes up or down as a result. Once you’ve had 3 full years of history and your premium is over a certain threshold, the state’s rating bureau will publish your mod and every insurance company will use that to calculate your premium.

4. Failure to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”) and the standards adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), can cost you a lot of money in fines and even result in criminal persecution.

Don’t believe me?

On December 17, 2015 the the Departments of Justice and Labor announced a plan to more effectively investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations.

In a memo sent that same day to all 93 U.S. Attorneys across the country, Deputy Attorney General Yates urged federal prosecutors to pursue worker endangerment violations.

The announcement says, in part:

“The worker safety statutes generally provide for only misdemeanor penalties.  However, prosecutors have now been encouraged to consider utilizing Title 18 and environmental offenses, which often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, to enhance penalties and increase deterrence.  Statutes included in this plan are the OSH Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) and the Mine Safety and Health Act (MINE Act).”

Furthermore, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.  said that:

“More frequent and effective prosecution of these crimes will send a strong message to those employers who fail to provide a safe workplace for their employees.”

Here is an example of the type of cases they are talking about.

In December of 2015, a 60 year old roofing company owner plead guilty to four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of willfully violating an OSHA regulation causing death to an employee. These charges were filed against him by the Department of Justice involving the death of one of his employees. The individual died after falling 45 feet from scaffold while performing work on a roof. The owner failed to provide fall protection equipment.

He was sentenced in March of this year (2016) to 10 months in prison and charged $71,600 in penalties.

So, it’s clear that you need a workplace safety program now, right? No? you’re not a roofing company or in the construction industry you say. Well, do you have employees in California? Employers in California and 14 other states are required to have an effective written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

Do you use temporary employees or are you temp staffing company?

On April 29, 2013 – OSHA sent a memorandum to the agency’s regional administrators telling field inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under OSHA.

A newly created code was implemented requiring investigators to identify when temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations and assess whether temporary workers received required training in a language and vocabulary they could understand.

A memo titled “Protecting the Safety and Health of Temporary Workers” dated April 29, 2014 from the OSHA Director of Enforcement Programs, says that:

“In recent months, we have received a series of reports of temporary workers suffering fatal injuries during the first days on a job. In some cases, the employer failed to provide safety training or, if some instruction was given, it inadequately addressed the hazard, and this failure contributed to their death.”

OSHA published a series of guidance documents developed under the Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI). This Initiative focuses on compliance with safety and health requirements when temporary workers are employed under the joint employment of a staffing agency and a host employer. Both employers are responsible for determining the conditions of employment and for complying with safety laws, rules and regulations.

Are you convinced now?

On the last episode I said that we’d dive into how to create and implement a workplace safety program in this episode but I wanted to lay the additional groundwork from this episode first. That said, the next episode WILL BE about creating one…. scout’s honor.

Conclusion:

The 4 reasons why it’s critical that you have a workplace safety program are:

  1. On the job Injuries and illnesses reduce productivity and lower morale
  2. You have a duty as an employer to provide a safe workplace, free from unnecessary hazards.
  3. Your premium is based on your past claims.
  4. Failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the standards adopted by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, can cost you a lot of money in fines and even result in criminal persecution.

About the author, Thomas

I have 20 of years insurance industry experience in C-level management, focusing on all aspects of workers compensation, risk management, loss control, employee benefits, HR, payroll and professional employer organization (“PEO”) operations. Currently, I am the owner and CEO of Humanly HR, and founder and host of SmallBiz Brainiac; a podcast providing employer intelligence to small business owners.

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