Workplace injuries are a business risk. As many entrepreneurs know, building a successful business requires dedication and careful planning, whether in selecting quality employees, designing innovative goods or offering first-in-class service.
While many business owners rightfully focus on staying ahead of the competition and foreseeing the external risks to the enterprise, it is also essential to consider internal risks, particularly the cost of employees getting injured on the job.
Of course, most business owners are required to have workers compensation insurance to pay for an injured employee's medical costs and partially replace lost income.
Workers compensation must be purchased separate and apart from any other liability insurance. Not only is obtaining this coverage a requirement in most states, it is essential in protecting the business.
This is only half the battle, however, since the vitality of the business also requires proactively creating a safe workplace.
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Workers Compensation Insurance at a Glance
In spite of all the preventive measures a business puts in place, the risk of accidents and injuries cannot be entirely eliminated. For this reason, workers compensation insurance is designed to help employees, as well as the business, recover.
In these claims, no one party is deemed to be at fault, and employees receive benefits in exchange for relinquishing their right to file a personal injury lawsuit. That being said, some workers may resort to consulting with a workers' compensation attorney to ensure that they receive benefits, particularly when claims are contested.
Workers compensation generally covers injuries that occur in the workplace, or while an employee is "on the job" at another location, and injuries caused by a vehicle accident while company business is being conducted, though not on their commute to and from work. Benefits are also available for workers who suffer from occupational illnesses.
In short, injured employees are entitled to compensation for any necessary medical care and a portion of their income while they are on leave. The amount and duration of replacement income, as well as the administration of medical treatment, varies from state to state. In the event that the accident or injury results in the employee's death, benefits may be paid to the surviving spouse and dependents.
While workers compensation provides benefits to injured employees, it does not cover a business for intangible losses that it may suffer, such as lost productivity, business interruptions, hiring and training replacement workers, or overtime costs.
As a result, workplace injuries pose a serious risk, especially for a small business that has limited resources to replace injured workers. By establishing and implementing a comprehensive workplace safety program, however, a business can minimize these costs and potentially prevent the occurrence of accidents and injuries.
The first step in creating a safe workplace is to ascertain the risks of any equipment and the activities in which employees engage while performing their duties. One of the most common injuries workers suffer is from repetitive motions, particularly bending and lifting objects. Even office workers, however, can be injured by the daily use of computer keyboards and other office equipment.
Obviously, the best way to evaluate these risks is by engaging employees in order to understand their safety concerns. It is also essential to identify and mitigate potential hazards. This means ensuring that equipment is operating properly, and being used correctly and that the premises are free of hazards, such as spills, clutter, poorly lit areas, damaged staircases, and the like.
In cases where hazards are identified, it goes without saying that these should be remediated and new workplace safety measures need to be implemented. A business owner must do more than be proactive in minimizing safety risks; it is also necessary to train employees about workplace safety.
In this regard, they should know how to spot hazards or potential dangers, and how to rectify them. While safety training is especially important for new employees, it is also helpful to regularly offer updated training to all workers. In the event that an accident occurs, moreover, employees should be given first-aid training to ensure that they can properly attend to an injured co-worker.
Ultimately, creating a safe workplace depends on a collaborative effort between management and the employees. While workplace safety is the responsibility of each individual in an organization, implementing safety procedures should be designated to key employees and supervisors.
Moreover, a workplace safety program needs to be continuously evaluated and, when needed, improved upon. Finally, creating a safe environment requires transparency: accidents and near misses need to be addressed, and employees should be encouraged to report hazards and injuries.
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The Bottom Line
In the end, workplace injuries and illnesses can significantly affect the bottom line of any business. Beyond the direct costs for workers compensation, there are also the indirect costs of lost productivity and corrective measures that may be required. While workers' compensation claims are handled on a no-fault basis, a business may also be the target of a lawsuit if the injury was caused by the employer's intentional conduct or if safety rules were ignored.
Because business owners are primarily responsible for creating a safe work environment, it is incumbent upon them to implement the appropriate procedures. In addition to preventing injuries, a well-designed safety program can foster employee morale and productivity, as well as the continued success of the business.