A Safe Workplace: A Requirement Benefiting Employees and Employers

The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has created a health and safety module for employers to follow which is aimed to help reduce workplace injuries to their employees. As OSHA states, employees and employers alike have incentives to maintain a safe workplace.

For employees, a workplace injury can cause pain and suffering, lost wages, and expensive medical treatment.  Workers’ compensation benefits are limited.  Workers’ compensation generally only covers about 60% of gross lost wages (up to a maximum of $1,181.28 per week), reasonable and necessary medical treatment and some limited compensation for permanent loss of function, scarring and/or disfigurement caused by a work injury.  Massachusetts’ workers’ compensation benefits do not provide any compensation for pain and suffering, no matter how serious the injury may be.  Workplace injuries can cause enormous stress of injured workers and their families due to pain and suffering and lost income.

For employers, workplace injuries can seriously affect the profitability of the company.  Workplace injuries cause an increase in workers’ compensation premium payments, as the employer is subject to an insurance premium modification as a result of workplace injuries necessitating lost time from work or medical treatment for the injured worker.

In my experience, most (if not all) accidents that occur in the workplace setting could have easily been prevented if basic safety rules has been created, implemented and enforced by the employer, and followed by the employee.  Often times, effective workplace safety rules are not created, implemented or enforced by the employer until after a workplace accident has occurred.  A reactionary safety attitude by employers will almost always result in accidents and increased business costs associated therewith.  By the time the reactive-minded employer creates, implements and enforces an effective workplace safety program, they have already been making increased workers’ compensation insurance premium payments and may also be facing a third-party negligence lawsuit (if there is an argument to be made that the injured worker was not directly employed by company).  Increased insurance premiums and legal defense costs can be destructive to a businesses’ profitability.

A workplace with a reactive attitude towards safety is a major hazard to the company’s employees.  In terms of human suffering and family disruption, the cost of serious or fatal accidents is incalculable.  No amount of money will ever put a seriously injured worker and their family members back in the same position of health that they were in before an accident.  Workers’ compensation and third-party negligence claims that may compensate and injured workers and their family for lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering can take years to work their way through the court system, adding more frustration to the situation.

Because so much is at stake when it comes to workplace safety, it is of the utmost importance for the employer to create a safety-first work environment aimed at taking necessary safety precautions to prevent workplace injuries before they may occur.  There are many steps that can be taken in order to reduce the risk for workplace injury, including performing a pre-hazard analysis, scheduling frequent meetings dedicated exclusively to addressing workplace safety issues that may arise, performing frequent and necessary inspections as dictated by workplace conditions, and encouraging and rewarding employees for reporting unsafe working conditions.  By creating, implementing and enforcing some basic safety rules, outcomes that can be detrimental to both employees and employers can easily be avoided.

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