Top 5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Accidents and Injuries

Does the thought of a workers’ compensation claim at your small business strike fear in your heart? When an employee is injured on the job, the resulting medical costs can dig deep into your business’s bottom line. The best way to avoid this costly expense is to prevent workplace injuries in the first place. Travelers Insurance recently conducted a study to find out what the most common workplace accidents and injuries are, with an eye to helping you avoid them.

Most Common Workplace Accidents and Injuries

The top five causes of accidents:

  1. Material handling — 32 percent
  2. Slips, trips and falls — 16 percent
  3. Being struck by or colliding with an object — 10 percent
  4. Accidents involving tools — 7 percent
  5. Cumulative trauma (injury by overusing or straining a body part over time) — 4 percent

The top five types of injuries:

  1. Strains/sprains — 30 percent
  2. Cuts or punctures — 19 percent
  3. Contusions — 12 percent
  4. Inflammation (such as tendinitis) — 5 percent
  5. Fractures — 2 percent

You might assume that some of these accidents and injuries happen only in construction, manufacturing or heavy industrial jobs. Think again: “Material handling” simply means lifting, lowering, filling, emptying or carrying an item–actions that restaurant employees, retail clerks and even office workers frequently perform. Falling from a height, such as falling off a ladder when stocking shelves, is a major cause of injury in the retail industry. Any time employees are moving heavy or unwieldy objects, there’s potential for them to accidentally hit or collide with each other. And even office workers hammering nails into walls to hang up bulletin boards are using tools.

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Lessening Risk Factors For Workplace Accidents and Injuries

How can you lessen the risk of workplace accidents and injuries?

  • Prevent slip and fall injuries by keeping common areas clear of obstacles, making sure they are well lit, and using slip-resistant flooring appropriate for the function of the area — for example, rubber mats in a restaurant kitchen. Wipe up any spills promptly, and place “wet floor” signs in the area.
  • Exercise caution when using ladders. Show employees proper use of ladders, including always opening them fully, making sure they are on a stable surface, and not climbing higher on the rungs than the manufacturer recommends. It’s a good idea to require employees to work in teams when using a ladder.
  • Provide safety equipment. Make sure employees have the safety equipment necessary to do their jobs and understand the importance of regularly using it. For example, employees who are frequently loading and unloading shipments or stocking warehouse shelves should be provided with back braces to help protect against strain.
  • Educate employees about ergonomics. One of the most insidious causes of workplace injuries is repetitive stress caused by common activities such as typing, mousing or looking at a computer screen for hours on end. Provide employees with ergonomic tools such as supportive chairs, ergonomic keyboards and computer mouses, as well as proper lighting. The Mayo Clinic offers a useful guide to creating an ergonomic office.
  • Keep up-to-date on new hazards and educate employees about how to avoid them. Technology sometimes creates new safety hazards. Just as computers led to a rise in repetitive stress injuries, “distracted walking,” (employees walking around the workplace looking at their smartphones) puts them at risk for tripping and falling or colliding with others or with objects.
  • Create a culture of safety. Show employees that you prioritize safety and encourage them to do the same. For example, if employees at your company are always in a rush, it’s easy for accidents to occur. Remind workers to follow proper procedures even if it means working a little slower — and don’t penalize them for that. Consider offering incentives such as prizes for employees or departments that go a certain number of days without a workplace accident.
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Despite your best intentions, workplace accidents and injuries will happen. That’s why it’s important to:

  • Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit on the premises and make sure employees know where the kit is and how to use it. Simple injuries such as cuts and puncture wounds can lead to infection if not properly treated right away, keeping employees out of the workforce for a significant time, the study found.
  • Keep an accident report log. No matter how insignificant workplace accident and injuries seems to be, recording information about the date, time, cause and treatment of the accident will help you in the future in case there is ever a workers’ compensation claim or question. Make sure employees know where the accident log is kept and what information they need to record, so you can get the data down no matter who’s present when an accident happens.
  • Have adequate insurance. Talk to your insurance agent about your company’s insurance coverage, including workers compensation insurance, and whether it’s adequate for your needs. A good insurance agent can also help you identify and mitigate risks in your business.

Workplace Injury Photo via Shutterstock
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