In a time when more and more workplace injuries are occurring, it is important for managers and leaders to improve safety in the workplace, particularly in areas where there is a higher risk of injury. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Construction and Manufacturing industries make up 10 of the top 15 fields where injuries occur in the workplace.
Safety incidents don’t even solely affect the workers involved. They also have a strong trickle-up effect, as a result of fines, litigation, and replacement training. In 2022, Dollar General was struck with a 1.3 million dollar fine by the Department of Labor for staggeringly dangerous work environments, including but not limited to obstructed exit routes, missing sprinklers, and inaccessible electrical panels.
With all of this in mind, managers should not only care about their profit line but about the safety of their direct reports. But how can these leaders improve safety in the workplace while still maintaining their profits?
Safety Costs Associated with Incidents
The first cost that a manager should recognize is one of the steepest scaling costs in the manufacturing industry- the EMR, or experience modifier rate. This is a number that insurance agencies will use to determine premiums and compensation rates. EMRs are determined based on a specific company’s historical cost of injuries and future risk chances. This number is then compared with the average losses other companies accrue in a specific state.
The average EMR tends to gravitate around 1.0. The lower an EMR is, the lower the compensation amounts are, which also applies vice versa as well. In addition, the higher an EMR is, the higher the insurance premiums are. EMRs are considered to be very accurate due to a concept known as Experience Rating, which states that history tends to repeat itself. Losses in the future will probably be similar to those of the past.
EMRs are extremely important in the Manufacturing and Construction Industry for one sole reason. Every business in these industries is required by State and Federal Law to have the following insurance coverages:
· General Liability Insurance
· Professional Liability Insurance
· Vehicle and Auto Insurance
· Inland Marine Insurance (Refers to any equipment that is towed)
· Contractor License Bonds
· Workers Compensation Insurance
Some states may even require further insurance. All of these insurances have periodic costs known as premiums, which can be increased depending on how often the insurance was used. Imagine how quickly this can add up. Insurance can be extremely expensive. It is important to note that insurance does not always cover negligent activity.
Businesses should also account for costs associated with OSHA requirements. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and is the federal board charged with “ensuring safe and healthy working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance”. They can also audit workplaces, and determine if they are in violation of safety protocol.
OSHA also mandates that workers receive a certain amount of company-funded training. This is required to be kept up to date and does get checked frequently as well, so it can’t be completed in-house and under the radar. For example, when I worked as a lifeguard, I was required to receive training in managing bloodborne exposure, basic and advanced first aid, bodily waste management, and hazardous chemical management.
How does a manager improve safety in the workplace?
The first step in adding safety to the workplace is to conduct very thorough examinations of your personnel, equipment, and workspace.
Personnel examination refers to checking any of their personal certifications and doing a thorough background check. Managers should also contact prior employers. User error is a common bane in the construction industry, and 86% of contractors admit to having made an error in the field. The severity of an error can make a very big difference, however. In addition to that, a common sanction placed on dangerous employees is for certifications to be voided. Checking into the history of a certification can make a big difference. While some managers believe that people may improve, it is important to remember that in the construction industry, safety should always be the number one priority. Background checks are important to read over due to potential liability. If a worker has been sued in the past for negligent behavior, bringing them onto staff could prove to be dangerous, and if a mistake is repeated, litigious.
Equipment examination should be something that a manager not only trains workers on but should be proficient with themselves. Heavy machinery such as forklifts, cranes, and bulldozers, along with their associated equipment such as ratchets, braces, and supports should always be examined before any use. In addition to this, managers should frequently bring in experts and mechanics to determine the safety and longevity of their specialized equipment. While yes, these machines are expensive and built to last, nothing can be left up to chance with them, due to the inherent danger that they pose.
Workplace examination is something that an outside entity or inspector should assess. The ideal goal of this is to ensure OSHA Compliance, as well as to ensure that the workplace is a safe area to be within. OSHA will also conduct this examination, for a fee.
The next step in adding safety to the workplace is to create a proper education program. Managers should facilitate a space in which it is not only okay but welcomed for workers to ask questions about safety compliance and regulations. The environment should be designed in a way to offer as many educational opportunities as possible for this. In my experience as a paramedic, I was also required to attend monthly in-services, where we would have our squad leader going over every safety feature and regulation in not only the house but also on our ambulances. This not only gave us refreshers on the safety tools already present but ones that were brand new as well. This actually ended up saving one of my coworkers’ lives. In our in-service, we were taught about the C02 Fire Suppression System within the AIRTIGHT server room connecting us to 9-1-1 Dispatchers and our radio systems. One very important thing that was noted was the fire axe planted next to the door. C02 Fire Suppression Systems are designed to be waterless and can extinguish a fire without creating a mess or damaging electronics. However, the C02 removes the oxygen from the room, strangling the fire. Naturally, this is incredibly dangerous for individuals in the room. This system ended up triggering while a technician was working in the room. If he didn’t know where the axe was to break the window and allow oxygen to come into the room, he would’ve most likely suffocated to death. Thanks to his safety training, he was able to escape with his life.
Another thing managers in the manufacturing industry can do to increase safety is to implement AIM Insights. AIM Insights and the subsequent AIM Insights People Leader Certification can help companies improve their safety by deploying a bottom-up approach to helping employees identify innovative solutions to improving safety and communication guidance from executive coaches on how to handle difficult situations when a manager has an employee not abiding by safety rules.
Safety is a product of tolerance. The more we tolerate bad behavior, the more likely accidents will occur. AIM Insights helps managers bridge a gap between the inconvenience of following safety procedures with the discomfort of confronting somebody in a manner that drives mutual understanding and compliance.
This should assist managers with starting to improve safety within their workplaces. It is important to note that incidents will always happen within the work sites. However, with proper management, this number should go down and enable a safer area.