A safe workplace is beneficial for both employers and employees. Building a culture of safety in the workplace requires buy-in from all parties, starting with a commitment from ownership and senior management that trickles down to those on the floor. On June 8, Day One of ISRI’s Safety and Environmental Conference (ISEC), Matt Leonard, risk management consultant at Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, discussed ways to build a safety culture at your organization, and the importance of supporting an employee who gets injured on the job.

Embedding Safety in Your Company

Leonard recommends all organizations have a safety committee to make recommendations to make the workplace safer. If there is no follow-up, then the safety committee isn’t functional, Leonard says. The committee should also get near-miss reports for any event that could have been a workplace accident. According to Leonard, organizations should receive 3-5 near-miss reports per month; otherwise, employees aren’t reporting their near misses. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since most employees won’t be quick to report something they did wrong.

With this in mind, workforces should be incentivized to fill out near-miss reports. To accommodate workers, employers should be flexible and accept verbal and written. Once these reports are filed, they should go to the safety committee, which should then perform a root-cause analysis to see what caused the near-miss.

Employers should also have a job-hazard analysis for each employee. The analysis examines what a worker’s responsibilities are, what could go wrong while he or she is performing those responsibilities, and how mishaps can be prevented. Workers should be active participants in developing this analysis, since they’re the ones who know the ins and outs of the tasks they perform.

For all these measures to be effective, lines of communication should be open at all levels. Employees should feel comfortable going to a supervisor or senior management if they have concerns, and they should feel empowered to offer recommendations on how to improve safety. Everyone in the workplace needs to share the responsibility of fostering a safe work environment. If there’s buy-in from everyone, then you’ll have a robust safety culture.

“When you get a safety culture that really works, you got people that say, ‘Hey, those are the things we do around here.’ It’s embedded into your company,” Leonard states.

Viewing Safety as an Investment

When an employee gets sick or injured on the job, workers’ compensation will cover medical expenses and lost income. The Experience Modification Rate (EMR) has a significant impact on the worker’s compensation insurance premium of a business. A metric that insurers use to calculate worker’s compensation premiums, the EMR takes into account the number of claims or injuries a company has had in the past, and their corresponding costs. An EMR of 1.0 is the benchmark average. If a company’s EMR number is lower than that average, their worker’s compensation premium will be lower than average. An EMR number greater than 1.0 will result in a higher-than-average premium.

To get the most bang for their buck, employers need to have the right insurance agent. They need to work with a medical provider, and they need to work with an insurance carrier. “If those three wheels aren’t churning together, you’re going to run into a lot of problems,” Leonard says. He adds that employers should establish relationships with medical providers long before workers get hurt. Building relationships will ensure that employees are taken care of when they need medical attention.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans have $1,000 or less in their savings accounts, Leonard says. When bills are due, they can’t afford to wait to get their money, so it’s important for employers to make sure that their workers get compensation as quickly as possible. Employers should also be mindful of employees’ feelings when they’re injured. Leonard says that employers should put themselves in the employee’s mindset. An employer should show empathy and let the employee know the company will be there every step of the way, and that the worker will get care.

Safety should be viewed both as an investment and as a condition of employment, Leonard says. You can’t allow employees to cut corners and engage in unsafe acts that may endanger them and others. An employer won’t be able to prevent every single injury, but they can take the necessary steps to prevent many of them. “Nothing takes precedent over safety,” Leonard says.