Workplace Health and Safety: Are You Doing Enough to Protect Your Employees?

employees safetyWorker’s compensation insurance can easily bankrupt you if you’re not careful. Are you doing enough to protect your employees on the job? Many employers assume that putting up a sign is all that’s necessary. But, there’s much more that can, and should, be done to protect both your employees’ and your future survival.

Prepare For Infectious Diseases and Illnesses

Infectious disease and illness can utterly destroy a company’s continuity. According to Al Berman, executive director of DRII, The Institute for Continuity Management, illness can be very disruptive for even small companies.

The biggest hazards are simple things like the common cold and flu. And, the reason they can knock out large portions of your workforce have to do with the company’s culture. For example, most companies discourage employees from taking sick days unless they’re absolutely necessary. Companies don’t spend enough time educating employees about how to stay healthy.

Sick days are premium days, meaning that paid sick days are always in short supply and an employee often cannot afford to take unpaid sick days. So, they come to work. This is where the problem starts. A contagious employee will easily spread his or her cold to the entire office, causing even more sick days or sick employees. Even if all of the employees come to work ill, there will be an inevitable drop in productivity.

You just can’t work at peak output when you’re not feeling well.

Aside from giving your employees more paid sick leave, Berman suggests that employers cross-train employees so there’s no “linchpin employee” that can bring the company down if he’s out for a week with a nasty sinus infection.

But, you can do even more. Reducing the risk of colds and flus in your employee population would also reduce the risk of employees cashing in on more sick days during the year.

Educational programs that teach employees about the value of good health, exercise, frequent movement, proper diet, essential blood tests and monitoring critical hormone, vitamin, and mineral levels could reduce or eliminate seasonal employee “drop outs” from a flu epidemic.

For example, research now suggests that cortisol, a stress hormone, may contribute to more frequent colds or even flus. How? The hormone lowers immune function, which makes individuals more susceptible to illness. Dealing with high-stress jobs is just too much for some people.

To solve this problem, you could implement an employee benefits package that includes regular day spa visits, regular cortisol spit tests, and “de-stressing” workshops aimed at helping people lower chronic stress.

But, cortisol isn’t the only “bad guy.” Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also play a role in illness. Vitamin D, a steroid hormone made when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B radiation, is crucial for proper immune function. Those with low vitamin D levels are also more susceptible to illness. Magnesium, zinc, potassium, calcium, sodium, and chloride are also critical for proper immune function.

Finally, according to biomechanist Katy Bowman, movement is an important aspect of good health. Frequent movement, not exercise per se, is what’s critical. Encourage your employees to stand at work more often by implementing standing desk protocols. Or, if they’re on their feet all day, see if there’s a way for them to sit for part of the day or just move around while doing their job.

Encourage your employees to take advantage of wellness checkups, help pay for regular blood tests not covered by insurance, and keep your employees educated about what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Prevent Fatalities On The Job

If your employees die on the job, they’re of no use to you. More importantly, a death on the job is a wicked liability for your company. One of the biggest threats to your employees’ lives is your workplace environment. Driving fatalities are especially common, unfortunately.

Don’t overwork your employees, and eliminate shift work – especially rotating shift work. Anything you can do to make peoples’ hours more stable and predictable is good. Ban cell phones, and other distractions, on the job.

Reduce Non-Fatal Injuries

Law firms, like Meltzer Taylor, take on a lot of personal injury cases. Many of them are against employers. So, rather than tango with a law firm over an employer negligence lawsuit, take some steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of non-fatal injuries.

Ergonomics play a big role in repetitive stress injuries. So, to eliminate this as a source of disability, encourage more movement in the workplace. Also, when more movement isn’t possible, employ good ergonomics at workstations.

Make sure your employees are equipped with necessary safety gear for their ears, goggles for their eyes, and protective clothing.

Start Employee Education Initiatives

Keep employees in the loop. So many corporations erroneously believe that employees are on a “need to know basis.” Not only is this arrogant, it’s dangerous. Educate employees as to the inherent danger of their job, pay premiums for dangerous work, and show your employees appreciation when deserved.

Educational initiatives should be aimed at reducing hazardous work practices, injuries, and illnesses. These workshops or meetings should happen frequently throughout the year. Finally, don’t forget to follow up with employees and test their knowledge. It’s of no use to anyone if it doesn’t stick.

Shirley Morris has a knack for understanding complicated laws. As a legal researcher, she is often surrounded by massive volumes of legal precedents and enjoys blogging about common questions businesses and entrepreneurs tend to ask.

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