This post was provided by Slice, one of Ritz Safety’s key partners in providing cutting-edge safety equipment.
They say you can’t put a price on safety, but if you’re in charge of safety budgets, you know that’s not true. When it’s time to equip or replace your company’s safety gear, the cost is spelled out in neat columns on your spreadsheet. Here you move numbers around, trying this trick or that to ensure that expenditure numbers match budget numbers and you’re in the black. After all, you don’t want to spend more than you have to. However, this approach only considers one part of the equation. If your calculations don’t account for the price of injuries, you’re not getting the whole picture.
Cuts: Leading Workplace Injury
To illustrate, consider one of the most common workplace injuries: cuts to the hand. A 2008 government study1 found that wrist and hand injuries were the number one cause of work-related emergency hospital admissions in Australia, for example. The majority of those injuries were lacerations–or cuts–ranging from minor wounds to amputations.
Costs of Treatment, Insurance and Fines
Hands are complex structures, full of delicate bones and an intricate network of ligaments and muscles. Their remarkable makeup is why hands are capable of so many intricate tasks and also to blame for why healing can take a while and treatment can be expensive. Every time a worker sustains a cut, the associated costs start adding up. Even a small cut in the wrong place can do irreparable, life-changing damage to somebody’s hand.
These costs start in the emergency department, where bandages, stitches and even surgery may be necessary. After emergency care comes rehabilitation costs and compensation for time off work.
Insurance may cover the expenses, but you’ll pay the price in higher premiums. If your business has an insurance policy that minimizes premiums, such as a Large Deductible Workers Compensation policy, you’ll still have to reimburse all expenses out of pocket up to a very large deductible, frequently $100,000 to $1,000,0002. That’s the kind of surprise cost no one likes.
If you skimp on safety precautions like cut protection, you may also be looking at an OSHA fine. Keep in mind that these fines will be going up3 considerably in 2016. Don’t forget the intangible, but very real, price to your company’s reputation: violations stay on record for consideration in future citations and can affect whether you’ll be able to attract in-demand workers.
Last But Not Least: Lost Productivity
Aside from more obvious direct costs to the employer, a worker out of production will inevitably cost you in terms of reduced overall productivity. Sure, you can hire a replacement, but there are going to be costs associated with training. Even if you onboard a quick study, you’re guaranteed to lose some capacity. Keep in mind that a decrease of efficiency at one position has a butterfly effect; each injury affects other workers’ morale and productivity. Even if you don’t hire a replacement, you’ll likely have to adjust shifts, requiring extra labor or overtime costs.
Before finalizing your safety budget, make sure you account for the real price of injuries. When you include hospital fees, recuperation costs, time-off compensation, insurance costs, government fines, lost productivity, training for replacements and lowered morale, the picture becomes a lot clearer. Upfront costs like cut protection pale in comparison to the real price of injuries. Prevention, such as safety cutters and protective gear, coupled with a strong pro-safety message, is the smart choice for safety’s sake and your company’s bottom line.
1 Work-Related Hand and Wrist Injuries in Australia. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/202/WorkRelatedHandandWristInjuriesinAustralia_2008_PDF.pdf