There’s no question that, as a nation, we’ve made great strides in protecting workers in our factories, hospitals, construction sites and other workplaces over the past few decades. Yet despite this progress, an average of 12 Americans still die on the job every day, and another 4 million workers suffer a serious job-related injury each year. Even one death on the job is one too many, and nearly all workplace injuries are preventable. No one wants to make that call to a worker’s family informing them that they won’t be coming home again.

Injuries and illnesses take a huge toll not only on workers and their families, but on businesses as well. The costs to businesses include: potential fines and increased workers’ compensation premiums; lost time due to worker absence, reporting, investigations, and replacement training; reduced productivity for workers and equipment that must be taken offline; and declines in worker morale and company reputation.

“Labor and management can collaborate to establish a ”culture of safety” that benefits workers and businesses alike.”

Culture of safety

It’s time to identify new strategies for protecting workers — and improving businesses’ bottom line. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants to help employers realize the potential of safety and health programs that focus on prevention. OSHA has developed recommended practices for a step-by-step approach to identifying and addressing hazards before they cause injuries or illnesses to workers. These practices comprise a flexible framework that is easily adapted for workplaces of all sizes and types.

Through safety and health programs, labor and management can collaborate to establish a ”culture of safety” that benefits workers and businesses alike. Safety and health programs help businesses prevent workplace injuries and illnesses; improve compliance with laws and regulations; reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers' compensation premiums; engage workers; enhance social responsibility goals; and increase productivity and enhance overall business operations.

Worker engagement

Successful safety and health programs are built around three key principles: management leadership; worker participation; and a systematic approach to finding and fixing workplace hazards. Entirely voluntary in nature, these programs demonstrate a company’s commitment to worker safety and health from the top down. They also recognize that workers know their jobs — and the hazards they entail — better than anyone else, so who better to suggest ways to eliminate those risks? 

From small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, organizations with safety and health programs have improved their injury and illness records and their bottom line. When employers and workers combine forces to make the workplace safer, productivity increases, quality increases, recruitment is easier, retention improves and corporate reputation is enhanced.