Many entrepreneurs give worker safety short shrift. It's not that they are bad people, indifferent to human suffering. Rather it's that business owners have so many important things on their plate that many believe that there’s no point worrying about something that may never happen.
Developing procedures to protect the safety of workers might seem like something nice to have but clearly not an item that one needs to have. As long as workers exercise reasonable care, things will probably be fine, people commonly assume.
This kind of thinking is dangerous: A single serious injury can wipe out years of success and in many cases completely destroy a business. Consider these points:
1. The cost of a worker injury can be considerable. A Department of Labor website carries an estimate that a single fracture costs an employer $95,291 in direct and indirect costs.
2. Insurance offers only so much protection. Many entrepreneurs count on their insurance carriers to pay worker injury claims, but that protection is fairly limited. Typically an insurance carrier would pay only a portion of the direct cost of injuries, leaving an entrepreneur to shoulder the indirect costs that, according to the American Society of Safety Engineers, could run much as 20 times as much as direct costs. (Fines levied by government agencies, for example, typically aren’t covered by insurers.)
3. Injuries damage a brand. Every successful entrepreneur understands the almost sacred importance of cultivating a business brand. Many spend long hours trying to has the the customer’s view of his or her enterprise. Injuries tarnish a company's reputation and erase years of marketing gains. One need only mention the Exxon Valdez or BP Deepwater Horizon spills to fully appreciate the catastrophic and lingering effects injuries can have on a brand.
4. Companies increasingly use safety performance as a criterion for awarding contracts. It is now more common for companies to ask to see a prospective vendor’s safety data as part of a bid package. A poor safety record can cost bidders lucrative deals.
Safety in the eyes of a small business entrepreneur may not seem like a big deal, but the risk of a seemingly inconsequential event that results in a worker injury can have sweeping, disastrous effects.
What’s more, injuries at a relatively small firm can have a disproportionate effect on the figures reported to the government.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics considers the recordable case rate as the following: The number of injuries multiplied by 200,000 and then divided by the number of employee hours worked at the firm. A single injury at a relatively small firm can create an alarmingly high incident rate.
Fortunately managing the risk of worker injuries is easier than many entrepreneurs think and something as simple as making the owner's expectations for a safe workplace known can have a powerful impact on how employees behave on the job.
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