Nowhere is the old principle "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" truer than in workplace safety. By taking the necessary, often simple steps to help workers prevent falls and unsafe working conditions, funds can save themselves untold costs related to those injuries.
Offer Educational Tips
It's much less costly to take the steps, which are often inexpensive, to promote workplace safety than to pay injury claims after accidents occur. The first step is awareness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides several safety publications, posters and signs free of charge. Beyond the OSHA publications, provide your members with information about the dangers of unsafe workplace practices, with links to news articles about on-site injuries and accident prevention tips.
Remind your members that safety is an issue in all workplaces. Even seemingly safe environments, such as a retail store, can be the source of injury from overexertion, strains from lifting, chronic pain from standing for long hours and repetitive motion injuries. According to the National Safety Council, injuries of this sort can be greatly reduced or eliminated by workers who understand their limits in terms of lifting heavy objects, requesting help when necessary, taking breaks as allowed by the workplace and using proper posture when working.
Engage Your Members
An OSHA report noted that workers' compensation claims in Ohio fell 52 percent for workplaces that adopted safety programs with employee engagement activities, such as a reporting system for injuries and incidents and a collection of safety ideas from workers. In addition to the drop in the number of claims, the cost of per claim expenses dropped 80 percent. OSHA stressed that worker participation is essential to the success of any safety program.
Engage your members by reminding them of workplace safety practices in newsletters and other communications. Allow them to submit their best workplace safety ideas and listing the top five every month in a member email or newsletter; perhaps even awarding a small prize, such as a low-denomination gift card, for the best suggestion each month.
Report Safety Issues
Workers should know their rights regarding safety in the workplace. OSHA handles most worker safety issues, though there are special organizations for some other industries. The Mine Safety and Health Administration handles mining safety issues; the Federal Aviation Administration is in charge of air safety; the U.S. Department of Transportation is the regulator for road safety issues, though OSHA is the regulator for non-road safety issues in the trucking industry.
Workers should also be encouraged to report any safety issues an employer doesn't correct to OSHA. Under the 1970 Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers cannot discipline workers for filing safety complaints with OSHA.
Education is the best pathway for prevention, so audit your workplace safety materials to ensure your members are properly informed of not only their rights but steps they can take to keep themselves safe on the job.
Phil Britt has worked as a journalist for 40 years, specializing in business issues for the last 30. His work covering the steel industry and its labor issues has been referenced in books, while his articles have appeared on numerous websites, national and international publications. Among current and past clients have been the American Medical Association, Afcom, the Credit Union National Association, Independent Banker, EH Publishing, the Southeast Chicago Development Commission, the Northwest Indiana Times and Insurance & Technology Magazine, just to name a few.