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Promoting a Safer Work Environment

by: Jeff Cecchini
Jeff Cecchini
Jeff Cecchini
Fostering healthy, safe, and positive work environments is more critical than ever for those in the construction and engineering industry. Construction work in particular is considered one of the most perilous occupations in the nation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 5,190 fatal work injuries documented in 2021, a staggering 951 occurred within the domains of construction and extraction.

Cultivating a worksite environment that not only mitigates potential risks, but also elevates employee well-being, can help reduce Workers’ Compensation claims and boost productivity. Here are six strategic measures designed to do just that.
Hire the Right People
Pre-hire screenings are one of the most effective strategies construction companies can use to reduce Workers’ Compensation claims. Pre-hire screenings help ensure an individual is capable of doing the job as outlined.

Evaluating an applicant’s strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, endurance, and agility before they are hired can help mitigate unforeseen risks associated with specific tasks.

Consider engaging the services of third-party professionals to conduct pre-hire employee physicals, functional capacity evaluations, and medical background checks. This ensures hiring judgment calls are based on facts, not feelings.
Create a Safe Environment
A safe and secure construction work site improves employee productivity while curbing injuries. Performing worksite inspections on a regular basis helps expose potential safety hazards and lurking risks. Inspections should include checking for visible safety concerns such as loose guardrails, improper maintenance of machinery and equipment, tripping hazards, and blocked pathways, for example.

In addition, employers should remain mindful of a number of common factors, such as avoiding repetitive motions that could cause injury to workers’ muscles, tendons, or nerves. Since contract work can be done in scorching heat, climate-related heat exposures should also be reduced in an organized way.

Prioritizing hydration, encouraging the application of sunscreen, and scheduling regular breaks in shaded areas can help prevent heat-related injuries. Train your staff to recognize the signs of heat stroke and take special care once temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Provide the Tools for the Job
For contractors, the very nature of the work often presents considerable risks that can end in Workers’ Compensation claims. Because of this, employee training is critical.

Crystal-clear work protocols are the foundation of injury mitigation. Introducing education and training for all incoming employees is extremely important, ensuring the seamless understanding of safe task execution. Reinforcing this foundation, post-hire training sessions should reemphasize safety protocols, ensuring compliance with labor laws while fostering a culture of protection.

Additionally, providing employees with the right tools and equipment is an important proactive safety measure. A steadfast resolve to steer clear of dangerous improvised methods is a trait of a conscientious employer, especially in this industry.

Construction work, notorious for its inherent risks, also requires the establishment of a daily check-in ritual. This innovative approach empowers workers to report safety concerns and hazards proactively, providing preemptive tools against potential threats.
Keep Clear Records
Precisely documenting worker activities is a pivotal strategy to mitigate Workers’ Compensation claims. Recording details encompassing job-related health and safety, including hours worked, prevailing working conditions and engagement in potentially hazardous tasks can help construction site employers establish a solid foundation for risk assessment and prevention. In instances where an individual seeks to file a Workers’ Compensation claim, this information empowers business owners with a comprehensive understanding of the situation, aiding in the assessment of claim validity.
Nurture Both Physical and Emotional Well-Being
Establishing formal wellness initiatives can effectively fortify physical health and help curb fatigue-related injuries. Studies show health and wellness interventions can result in a 26 percent reduction in healthcare costs and a 30 percent decrease in Workers’ Compensation and disability claims costs.

Here are a few ways employers can build employee wellness into their culture:
  • Provide access to mental healthcare providers
  • Offer stress management classes and seminars
  • Establish breaks throughout the day
  • Offer incentives to encourage fitness, such as gym membership discounts or reimbursements for exercise classes

Workplace wellness also encompasses mental health. Encouraging an open dialogue between supervisors and employees helps cultivate a culture of understanding. Consider offering services to help employees deal with stress and anxiety and improve their emotional well-being, such as offering grief counseling services and financial advisors.

Implement a Return-To-Work Initiative for Injured Workers
Even with a robust safety program in place, accidents can still happen. In such instances, having a return-to-work program established can reduce Workers’ Compensation claims costs.

Typically, Workers’ Compensation claims that remain open for longer periods cost more. If an employee is absent from work for 20 days, they have a 70 percent chance of returning to work; if they are gone for 45 days, their chances of returning drop to 50 percent; and if they are missing for more than 70 days, their odds of returning to work plummet to 35 percent. If employees with injuries resume work at a later stage, the claim must be higher in order to replace their income.

The primary objective of a return-to-work program is to facilitate the reintegration of injured employees into the workforce as quickly as possible, even if this involves them performing modified duties during their recovery period. Consider offering part-time work or giving an employee light-duty responsibilities until they have fully recovered – as long as those duties adhere to the guidelines established by an employee’s medical provider.

All businesses should strive to create a healthy work environment, as it reduces injury, related Workers’ Compensation claims and increases profitability in the process. By creating an effective safety plan, hiring the right people for the job and more, construction employers can build a culture of caring that offers a strategic roadmap for mitigating job-site risks.

Jeff Cecchini is a licensed agent for global insurance brokerage HUB International. He specializes in contractor insurance programs. Contact him at 971-888-5394 or jeff.cecchini@hubinternational.com.

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