Ten Steps to a Safer Workplace

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:36 pm

Controlling worker’s compensation costs is a goal for all employers. Preventing an injury from occurring in the first place is the most effective objective.

Employers can be proactive about preventing workplace injuries to workers. The following steps are suggested.

1. Create a safety program

Many workplace accidents can be avoided. As with any strategic initiative, the company needs to commit the time, money and staff necessary to establish and promote safety. The safety staff should be empowered to implement the changes necessary and enforce the policy.

2. Compile job hazard analyses

Specific work areas may generate a higher number and rate of injuries than others. Ergonomic consultants are available to analyze each job with respect to many factors including the amount and frequency of lifting, the proximity of the worker to the task and the workstation flow.

3. Implement job rotation

Job rotation serves as a safety measure by avoiding placing undo stress on any one part of the body. In addition, workers generally are more interested and stimulated by performing multiple work duties. The cross-training that arises is an added bonus to the employer.

4. Compile ADA-compliant job descriptions

The Americans with Disability Act allows employers to compile written job descriptions that identify the essential functions and physical requirements of each job. The job descriptions can serve as the basis by which the employer can make hiring and placement decisions.

5. Conduct replacement examinations

After a job offer is made, the employer can require a perspective employee to undergo a "pre-placement" medical evaluation. The employer should contract with an occupational medicine provider who will appropriately scrutinize each candidate. If a medical condition were to be found that prevented the worker from either physically or safely performing the essential functions of the job, the offer can be rescinded.

6. Conduct drug and alcohol testing

The use of illicit drugs and the abuse of alcohol are pervasive in our society. Drug testing is encouraged as part of the pre-placement process. Drug and alcohol testing is encouraged for all post-accident and reasonable suspicion cases. By establishing and publicizing a drug testing program, employees will be encouraged to consider their actions both at and outside of work.

7. Perform fitness-for-duty examinations

Questions regarding an employee’s ability to safely perform their job may occur for a variety of reasons including return to work for any cause, job transfer, or job reassignment. The fitness-for- duty examination is intended to evaluate an individual’s functional ability. A physical capacity evaluation can be performed to objectively identify the worker’s physical tolerance.

8. Implement worksite wellness

Wellness initiatives that are directed at identifying and addressing individual health risk factors can be implemented to promote healthier lifestyles. Common risk factors in the general population include poor nutrition/obesity, a general lack of exercise, smoking, and stress. Programs are readily available that can be implemented onsite to address these factors.

9. Partner with an occupational medicine provider

Many community physicians are unfamiliar with the work environment or the nuances of the worker’s compensation system. Partnering with an occupational medicine provider who understands the needs of the employer and employee ultimately works to the benefit of safety and cost reduction.

10. Practice early return to work

If a work injury should occur, every attempt needs to be made to return the injured employee to work as soon as possible. "Transitional duty" work should be identified in advance. Early return to work is a key component in promoting the resolution of an injury and avoiding disability.

The suggestions offered can be readily implemented in the workplace. Although employees may initially resist these changes, the result will be to create a safer work environment. Ultimately, the best interests of the employee and employer are served.

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