There is truly little debate about the importance of workplace safety. Most people agree safety in the workplace is important. Whether you look at it from the perspective of the employee or the employer, there are tangible benefits from maintaining a safe workplace. In the broadest sense, a safe workplace makes for more satisfied, loyal employee/s. The employer benefits from better community relations, which in turn helps such recruiting and retaining skilled people.
Why safety is important and the potential for loss of life.
Ultimately, a safe workplace protects its employees from injury and/or, worst case scenario, loss of life. No one wants to be the victim of a workplace accident in Australia or around the world. For those who are, there are several corresponding circumstances that are not often considered but manifest themselves after the fact. While a person is absent from work due to injury and is unfortunate enough not to have adequate medical coverage, they could experience a financial setback.
Even where government organisations provide medical insurance the final impact on a person and his/her immediate family can be substantial. At times, the medication and treatments needed to assist with recovery are not covered by medical insurance – or worse, the employee does not have insurance – adding to the financial loss created due to the injury.
Medical insurance may not be enough
Certain injuries may require a long convalescence. This can put strain on a relationship, with one partner taking on the role of caregiver. If the partner also works, the added responsibility of being the caregiver on top a full-time job can create additional stress on the relationship. Also, it would be likely that personal mental health may suffer as well.
If it is a major injury, or the symptoms from the injury linger for long periods. The ongoing symptoms may prevent the employee from returning to work in the same position as before. Physical and psychological barriers can also dictate a position change. If the employers are not able to reassign the employee within the organization, they may need to change careers completely. All this contributes to additional financial loss, as well as emotional and relationship stress.
While the employees have the most to gain from workplace safety. There are definite advantages for the employer to be conscious of the work environment and understand why safety is important. The most valuable asset an employer has is their employees. Any good employer recognizes the need to protect the assets of the company. By doing so, the employer is also protecting the company from financial loss.
The consequences of not understanding why safety is important
A workplace injury has a variety of negative impacts on the company. Sometimes a workplace accident will also involve damage to property or company equipment. Productivity loss due to the absence of the employee as well as the replacement cost of the equipment or the repair cost of the property can be expensive
With the loss of an employee due to a workplace accident, additional strain is put on the remaining workforce. It is unlikely that the employer will hire someone to temporarily replace the injured employee. More likely, work schedules and job duties will be revised to accommodate the loss in anticipation of the injured employee’s return. This added workload can contribute to a drop in quantity and quality or work. Also an increase in absenteeism and a decrease in morale. The increased workload unto itself can contribute to additional workplace injuries as the existing workforce is asked to do more in the same allotted time.
One of the costliest aspects to the employer is when an employee cannot return to work due to an injury, and the employee must be replaced. The cost of recruiting and training is significant. Even if you can find a suitable candidate to hire, there is no guarantee the candidate will work out. The interview process only reveals the tip of the iceberg. What the new employee brings to the position is only seen once they are on the job and their performance can be evaluated. If the employee does not pass their probation and is released, then the costly process of recruiting and training begins again.
Safe work environment for the employee
The employer and the employee both share an equal responsibility when it comes to workplace safety. It is incumbent upon the employer to create a safe work environment for the employee. Providing the proper equipment and materials to effectively do the job. At the same time, it is for the employee to maintain a safe workplace for themselves and their colleagues, and to use the tools and equipment provided as they are designed.
When the two parties uphold their end of the bargain, the employer benefits from a satisfied, engaged, productive and loyal workforce. Also, the company benefits from a positive image within the community, becoming a sought-after employer, attracting the best talent. For the employee, the benefit of playing their part in keeping the workplace safe is a positive work environment. This will allow them to pursue their career free of injury, suffering and financial loss.
Emergency management planning and the safety benefits
We have covered the details about the benefits to individuals and a company. To further enhance safety it is important to not only put in place preventative measures but organisations need to prepare for response and recovery from emergencies.
Even small emergencies with little impact can have many associated risks mitigated by simply putting in place systems and processes. Subsequently, for response to an emergency and recovery from that same emergency.
Emergency management plans don’t need to be “war and peace”. It should provide a workable guide for all within the business to minimise the impact of emergencies. Without an emergency plan it is possible that any emergency response will escalate into an out of control situation until the emergency services arrive. Thus, placing all at great risk of harm.
Safety starts with the employer and employee who have responsibilities to provide safe systems of work. The benefits can be substantial and lessen the impact and risk of harm. Understanding why safety is important in the workplace could be the difference between life and death.