Workplace Accidents: Legality and Liability
Every employee has a right to a safe and healthful working place, and every state has a procedure for workers' safety. Occupational safety measurements enforce a protective workplace. But, due to the complex legislation of workers' compensation and workplace injury, many issues are left unattended. In recent days, most organizations have their own safety committee that could help employees and talk to them about the right to report, seek assistance, and claim compensation. Policies may change over time, but what is critical is that every employer must keep the workplace free of any health and safety hazards.
This research survey by GoodFirms titled: 'Workplace Accident: Legality and Liability' attempts to find deeper insights into the paradigm of workplace injuries, their causes, stats, prevention measures, liability, and legal implications of such occurrences and also suggests tips from experts to prevent such occurrences. The research will help employers gain better insights into workplace safety and assist in creating a safer environment for employees.
Table of Contents:
An Overview of Workplace Safety
Survey and Data Analysis
Current Workplace Safety and Hazard Situations
Provisions Organizations Have in Place to Address Workplace Injury Incidents
Emergency Contact in Case of Workplace Accidents
Top Causes of Workplace Injuries and Tips to Prevent them
Employee Perception Regarding their Employer’s Attitudes towards Workplace Safety
Satisfaction with Preventive Steps Taken to Avoid Workplace Injury or Fatal Incidents
How Can Technology Help In Reducing Workplace Injury Incidents?
The sufferings, and sometimes the pain that work-related injuries or accidents can lead to underline the ethics that every organization and employee should follow to prevent such incidents throughout their daily activities. Steps must be taken to mitigate and provide support when accidents do take place.
Anything from slipping and falling to collisions to electrical hazards there are several health and safety hazards we come across everyday in our work life. The overall costs and effects of workplace accidents are very high for employers considering the multiple dimensions such as legal repercussions, the economic impact on disrupted business, lawsuits, and compensations, reputational loss to organizations, etc. Furthermore, estimating the devastating effects of the physical and the mental trauma on injured employees and their families is unimaginable.
Today’s organizations have more tools, technological assistance, and guidance from regulatory bodies and experts on the subject of workplace safety. Even in-house safety committees can help organizations keep workplace injuries under check. Providing safety training, and first-aid training are the few first steps organizations take towards this. While high-end organizations are using technologies like AI, nanotechnology, etc., to intensify their safety protocols, there are laggards that struggle to maintain even basic safety standards.
GoodFirms’ research survey titled: 'Workplace Accidents: Legality and Liability' provides an overview of the current workplace safety situation around the world. The survey uncovers the effectiveness of measures and provisions deployed by global businesses to ensure employee safety at the workplace. The survey also digs deeper into employee perception of the current workplace safety policies and attitudes of their organizations. The research identifies the top causes of workplace injury incidents and suggests tips from experts to prevent them. The research also discusses how technology can help prevent workplace accidents and injuries.
An Overview of Workplace Safety
In recent years, globalization and rapid technological progress have been the prime drivers of workplace safety initiatives. The emergence of new markets and a new order of workforce (comprising immigrants, gig workers, etc.) has also impacted how governments and labor regulatory bodies form laws to protect employees from workplace hazards and accidents. The realm of workplace safety has further evolved immensely in the context of the measures taken after the pandemic and also in response to drastic regulatory, economic, and technological changes the world is witnessing currently.
Also, the corporate world has become more sensitive towards their worker’s safety and well-being in light of the efforts and vigilance of occupational safety organizations such as the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). Today workplace safety is the priority of organizations, and it is taken more seriously than ever before. High employee fatality incidents like the Panama Canal construction that took the lives of 40% of its employed workforce(1) or the Burma-Siam railway project that cost more than 100000 lives(2) are things of the past. Today even minor injuries to the employed workforce pose reputational, financial, operational, and compliance-related risks for organizations.
Organizations are putting in place more stringent measures to eliminate workplace hazards and injury risks. Yet, despite consistent improvements, workplace accidents are still frequent and keep causing human suffering to employees and their families and legal repercussions and penalties for employers. There is also a great disparity in the perception of workplace safety and incident mitigation efforts in developed countries vs. underdeveloped or developing economies.
Highly developed countries have stringent labor laws and more effective compliance than underdeveloped ones. Organizations in developed economies have obligations to report all workplace accidents to organizations like OSHA and ILO. On the other hand, many low-income economies continue to underreport cases of workplace accidents and, shockingly, have negligible compliance with occupational safety laws. Even though worldwide media outlets highlight huge industrial catastrophes and accidents, everyday occupational accidents and fatalities are typically not reported. Employees in informal economies experience inadequate working conditions, insufficient health and safety regulations, and hazardous conditions, leading to poor health or workplace injuries.
TRC rate (total recordable case) rate, a standard unit for measuring workplace injuries, increased in 2021 compared to 2020. Private industry employers reported 2.3% injuries per 100 Full-time employees (2.2% in 2020).(3)
However, laws and regulations are getting stricter day by day, and organizations are under more obligation to report and address workplace injury incidents than ever before. For instance, the new provisions added to Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) require employers to report all instances of medical leaves that cite injury at the workplace as the reason for leave. Earlier, the reporting obligation required at least 4 days of leaves or 24 hours of hospitalization.
Survey and Data Analysis
GoodFirms surveyed more than 700 employees and employers from organizations around the world to understand the current state of workplace safety in their organizations. The survey also queried businesses about safety measures, initiatives, and protocols in their companies and how these are perceived by the employees/employers.
The results of the survey are analyzed below in detail:
Current Workplace Safety and Hazard Situations
There is a great deal of disparity in jobs on the basis of occupational safety. There is a difference between jobs that require one to sit in a cubicle and others in which one has to work at heights, work with heavy equipment, or in dangerous environments that pose high risks of injury and health hazards. Construction, Agriculture, Fishing, Transportation, Defense, Firefighting, Maintenance and repairs, Mining, Logging, etc., are some of the world's most dangerous industries in terms of occupational safety and health hazards. Alarmingly, 21.6% of the GoodFirms’ surveyees mentioned having jobs involving them working with hazardous materials, risky places, equipment fall chances, and other situations that pose a risk of injury.
The economic and human costs are colossal when we consider the after-effects of workplace injuries– compensation, interruption of operations, lost working time, medical expenses, and regulatory penalties are some of the repercussions faced by the employers, whereas injured employees and their families have to go through physical and mental trauma, ability losses, etc. 3.1% of surveyed employees reported suffering workplace injuries. When it comes to accidents and injuries, 3.1% is not a small number.
Some accidents such as fires, toxic gas leakages, or industrial blasts may have wider ramifications and cause heavy losses to property, class-action lawsuits, and major environmental impacts too.
Workplace Safety Training
Employers have a responsibility to equip their employees with the knowledge required to protect their lives and the lives of their colleagues at the workplace. Managers and supervisors should make sure workers have been given appropriate instruction on the safety and health elements of their job role and how to reduce or avoid any potential hazards. Furthermore, organizations should initiate training sessions to help prevent and manage any accident risks at the workplace. “If you do not provide the appropriate training for your employees, you are not only putting their well-being in jeopardy but also putting your business at risk of being held liable for any accidents or injuries that may occur as a result of the lack of training, says Tom Miller, chief marketing officer, FitnessVolt.
GoodFirms’ research revealed that 54.6% of surveyees received workplace safety training when they started their job. The surveyees reported receiving training for various components, including hazard identification workshops, first aid CPR, using protective gear, measures for working at heights, equipment precautions, communication in times of incidents, etc.
Safety training is an ongoing process, and it should be reviewed when there is an advent of new technologies, new equipment, new safety tools, or changes in office spaces, work sites, etc. Employees that are already trained need retraining when such changes occur. 44.3% of respondents also asserted that they got retrained for workplace safety when they shifted to another role that required a different type of safety training.
Workplace Safety Policy
Workplace safety policy is a written policy document that establishes objectives, guidelines, rules, regulations, preventive measures, and also the post-injury actions to be taken by employees and employers. The document also details the safety checklists for using equipment, dos and don’t, at the workplace to ensure a safe working environment and policy of the organization in the event of a workplace accident.
The purposes of written workplace safety are to promote best practices for keeping employees safe and also as a part of the compliance required by organizations. However, our survey revealed a written workplace safety document is a rarity. Only 3.7% of surveyed employees reported having a copy of the written employee safety policy provided by their organization. Organizations that fail to disseminate the written safety policy document to their employees may find themselves in a difficult situation if any workplace accident is taken to court.
To avoid any punitive actions from state authorities, organizations need to ensure that:
- All employees have the written workplace safety policy in hard and soft copies
- Employees understand their roles and responsibilities regarding workplace safety measures and protocols
- Video tutorials/live training should be utilized to explain certain complicated workplace safety procedures detailed in the printed manuals.
- All tools, resources, and managerial and financial support are there to support and enforce the policy
- The policy clearly underlines the accountability of each department and individual
Responsibility for Workplace Accidents
In most cases, employers are held liable for any accident and injury that occurred to employees at workplaces. 49.2% of our surveyees believe that it is the employer’s responsibility to prevent workplace incidents. 44.6% think both employees and employers are responsible for the same. Only 6.2% of surveyees believe that the responsibility to prevent workplace accidents lies with the employees. However, determining the liability for a workplace accident is a complicated thing, especially when things get escalated and lawyers get involved. The laws are intricate. Liabilities are determined by multiple factors and case-to-case circumstances.
For instance, if a worker falls from a scaffold and gets injured, the employer’s liability, in this case, can take multiple dimensions based on the subsequent actions and turn of events:
The following actions post-incident can increase the legal liability of the employer:
- The employer did not call emergency services like 911.
- First aid box was not available or offered to the injured employee.
- The employee was treated locally and sent home without a complete checkup. The employee’s condition worsened later, or injuries resulted in death.
- The scaffold carrying the employee's weight didn’t support the employee, and he fell due to inadequate equipment and not due to unavoidable failure in equipment.
- The employee refused treatment, but the employer didn’t get a signed copy of the refusal.
- The employee had injury/trauma/physical or mental instability from a previous injury or health condition, and the employer employed him without clearance from an authorized medical practitioner.
In contrast, the below actions post-incident can decrease the legal liability of the employer:
- The employer provided first-aid and called emergency services without delay.
- The scaffold malfunctioned due to unavoidable causes or the employee’s negligence or error of judgment.
- The employer had taken written approval from the employee for refusal to get medical help.
- The worker risked his own life by violating any safety guidelines without the information of the employer.
- The employer was under the influence of any drug substance, alcohol, or other banned narcotics.
- The employer has worker injury insurance and can pay for medical expenses.
- The employer has appointed a full-time safety inspection expert.
- The employer carefully collected and documented information related to the incident in the form of photos and statements of the supervisor or other workers and also got the incident place sealed immediately to help any future investigation attempts from authorities.
“Ensure that all work activities are properly documented to establish an exact chronological record of events resulting in each accident/injury in case of litigation or lawsuits related to workplace accidents or injuries while doing your job,” says Mia Garcia, chief executive officer of iToolab.
OSHA (occupational safety and health regulation) has clear guidelines (rules, regulations, and liabilities) for employers to protect their employees from workplace accidents. The OSH Act, implemented in 1970 and addressed the disparity in workplace safety guidelines that individual states had then and eliminated any guesswork in safety laws. OSHA brings all states in the USA on the same platform with regard to workplace safety laws.
Provisions Organizations Have in Place to Address Workplace Injury Incidents:
100% of employees reported having a First-Aid Kit in their organizations.
Where necessary, employers and employees must be in a position to deal with accidents and emergencies, including providing first-aid facilities. This is the most basic requirement for workplace safety in organizations, and our research found that organizations have 100% compliance with it.
“As workplace managers, it is our liability to train our people in basic first aid. All the employees collectively should be able to provide immediate assistance to the sufferer. The knowledge can help prevent major problems like an irreparable loss”, says Daniel Thompson, Co-founder of Salt Water Digital.
89.6% of the surveyees reported being aware of employee insurance as a provision their organization has to address workplace injury incidents.
The objective of employee insurance is to facilitate medical expenses, rehabilitation, or compensation for any work-related injury that may render the employee unable to join the duty back. Most occupational accident insurance plans provide employers with financial protection in case of employee injury at the workplace. However, the coverages are fixed as per the premium chosen, and these insurance plans may not completely pay for expenses or settlements.
Collaboration with Medical Hospitals
21.1% of surveyees said that their organization has collaboration with medical hospitals to treat employees in case of workplace injury incidents.
Organizations have the responsibility to ensure safety of their employees while they are at work. One-fifth of the surveyed organizations have active collaboration with medical hospitals to ensure that injured employees receive medical attention without any delay. Such collaborations provide injured employees access to critical medical treatment and care and necessary rehabilitation and recovery services in a timely manner.
In-house Medical Practitioners
17.2% of respondents reported having an in-house medical practitioner to attend workplace injury cases immediately.
Appointing an in-house medical practitioner to attend workplace injury cases can ensure timely medical assistance to those affected and reduce injury complications, risks, and fatalities. This also reduces the financial and legal liability of employers in workplace injury cases and projects the employers in good light. This system also enables employees to seek medical advice and assistance for general ailments and promotes a culture of wellness at work.
Dedicated Ambulance Services
7.6% of surveyees mentioned their organization has a dedicated ambulance service to respond to any workplace accident quickly.
The ambulance service, equipped with critical medical devices and emergency supplies, helps organizations provide prompt and efficient responses to any emergency situation. This also creates an atmosphere of trust and satisfaction towards employers and their efforts and lowers the chances of suits against them. When employees appreciate the efforts taken by their employers to address workplace injury cases, they are less likely to file legal suits in case of adverse events.
In-house Nursing and Care Facilities
1.6% of surveyees asserted that their organization has in-house nursing and care facilities to handle workplace injury cases immediately.
Having in-house nursing and care facilities to handle workplace injury cases is a rarity, and only 1.6% of surveyees reported having it in their organizations. However, an in-house nursing and care facility is a highly positive initiative toward addressing workplace injury cases and can significantly reduce employer liabilities associated with workplace accidents. This will also be the fastest approach to handling workplace injury, and immediate medical attention can save many lives.
9.6% of employees are totally unaware of the workplace safety measures taken by their employers.
Having a comprehensive knowledge of workplace safety provisions is critical for making the right decisions in case of workplace accidents. Unaware employees may not know what to do to prevent injuries or how to address them if it occurs. For example, employers may have purchased the safety gear required to work in a particularly risky area of the job site. However, unaware employees may do the work without using safety gear. Education, training, and awareness of all safety provisions and guidelines are critical for adhering to workplace safety protocols.
Emergency Contact in Case of Workplace Accidents
69.5% of surveyed employees reported having an emergency contact number or a safety committee to report immediately in case of a workplace accident. Alarmingly, 30.5% do not have an emergency number to report such incidents.
Employee safety is paramount in any workplace, and having an emergency contact number or a safety committee is essential. Responsible employers ensure that employees have concrete information, resource accessibility, and protocols to follow to respond to workplace accident cases. The emergency contact number can be very helpful in accessing required support, guidance, and medical attention.
Also, having a safety committee to report workplace accidents can be stress-relieving for employees. Safety committees can also act as a communication bridge between employees and employers with respect to safety concerns. Also, safety committee members regularly visit and inspect job sites for hazards or negligence and report the same to employers.
Top Causes of Workplace Injuries and Tips to Prevent them
We surveyed organizations to find the top causes of workplace injury incidents. Poor work safety measures, employee negligence, and judgment errors emerged to be the top three causes resulting in workplace accidents. Other causes include over-exertion, muscular injuries caused by repetitive actions, poor training, slippery surfaces, fall hazards, etc. We also have included the tips gathered by experts to prevent such incidents in this section.
Poor Safety Measures
Poor safety measures at the workplace are the topmost cause of workplace injuries, say 79.3% of the surveyed employees.
The signs of poor safety culture include continuous violations of safety laws, absence of safety protocols, and ignorance of safety management processes. Poor safety measures increase the chances of workplace accidents and injuries. When businesses use inadequate safety equipment or poor-quality materials for storage, handling, transport, etc., it eliminates any safety net created by employee safety training.
Reportedly, there was an incident of a worker receiving serious injuries after getting pulled into the rotating bars of a machine at Great Lakes Polymer Technologies. The US Department of Labor’s OSHA unit investigated the incident and found the company guilty of violations of safety norms. The federal investigators reported the absence of machine guarding, inadequate training of employees, and no usage of a lockout system during maintenance as the main reasons for the accident.(5)
Organizations should create a culture of safety that promotes healthy conversation among employers, employees, and managers regarding safety measures, safer operations, and risk-mitigating practices. It is the legal responsibility of employers to provide safe working conditions to their employees, and any lapse can lead to legal repercussions and hefty fines.
Employee negligence is a significant reason for workplace injuries, asserts 68.7% of surveyees.
Failing to abide by safety practices at workplaces, not utilizing safety equipment, ignoring fellow workers’ pleas for caution, refusing to address a potential danger/threat/exposure, improper training, delay in repair of any glitch in heavy machinery, etc., fall under the category of employee negligence.
Most of the slips and fall cases, electrocution, cuts from machines, etc., are caused due to employee negligence. Sometimes negligent behavior can cause fatal incidents. For example, negligence by armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and actor Alec Baldwin on the sets of the film ‘Rust’ cost the film’s cinematographer Halyna Hutchins her life. The armorer apparently failed to make sure that the pistol used for the prop didn’t have live rounds, while the Actor pointed it at a human and pulled the trigger without checking it first on the ground or air. The fatal workplace accident became one of the most talked about events in 2021.(6)
“Workplaces should be accident-free in an ideal world. Unfortunately, accidents can sometimes happen, no matter how careful we are. But this shouldn't be used as an excuse for negligence. On the contrary, businesses must continuously persuade their employees to be vigilant and ensure that they are taking every precaution to reduce workplace risks,” says Eleanor Fletcher, CEO and Founder of The Best Brisbane.
57.3% of surveyed employees indicated that judgment errors are the primary cause of workplace accidents.
Many jobs require employee discretion and on-the-spot judgment to carry out work tasks. Errors in judgment can cause terrible consequences and accidents. Even highly-experienced workers are not full-proof from making judgment errors. Some examples of judgment errors are: ignoring an over-pressure alarm considering a history of false alarms, misjudging the speed of an approaching load vehicle in the warehouse, etc.
As per 41.5% of surveyees, low-quality equipment is responsible for workplace injuries and accidents.
Defective and low-quality machinery/equipment can perform poorly and cause serious workplace accidents. Some organizations disregard quality in favor of pricing, and this may put employees’ lives at risk. Even a small screw that doesn’t meet the required quality can lead to a chain of events that may result in massive havoc.
Businesses need to thoroughly research material quality, brand history, company reputation, customer reviews, and certifications before investing in any tools, equipment, heavy machinery, or even smaller items like cables, sockets, etc.
Repetitive tasks causing strain on a particular body part
36.2% of surveyees attribute workplace injuries to repetitive tasks causing strain on body parts.
An article published in National Employment Law Project cites Amazon’s injury rate in New York warehouse as 9 per 100 Full-time employees (FTEs) in the year 2021.(7) One of the prominent reasons for the injuries is attributed to musculoskeletal disorders that may cause permanent disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relates Musculoskeletal disorders with activities that involve routine lifting of heavy objects, performing repetitive forceful tasks, etc.(8) The pandemic-induced surge in online orders led to workers doing their job at a faster pace and with fewer breaks.(9)
Transparent communication about work safety guidelines while hiring and onboarding employees work in the employers' favor. Before offering a job, candidates must be made aware of the potential risks involved in their job along with the current safety measures in place in the organization. Organizations should have a mechanism for musculoskeletal symptom diagnosis in their employees and also provide ergonomic solutions wherever possible.
Poorly Designed Workplace:
31.8% attributed workplace accidents to poorly designed workplaces.
When the office premises, job fields, and workplaces are poorly designed without meeting the safety standards as determined by state laws and regulatory guidance, it can lead to serious workplace accidents. Organizations should ensure the construction or leasing of office spaces that are safe and healthy and accommodate all specific equipment and measures that prevent any untoward incident, including falls, fires, slips, etc.
Office spaces with poor ventilation or air movement controls can cause toxic internal air circulation and affect the health of employees. “The workplace layout should include adequate footpath markings, be free of slipping hazards, and include stations for cleaning up spills,” says Jennie Miller, the co-founder of Midss.org. Employers need to conduct a comprehensive vulnerability assessment and risk analysis for fire safety, emergency exits, and other security requirements.
After COVID-19, many countries have added more provisions related to workplace designs. The offices now should also follow safety standards related to social distancing, hygiene, disinfection, etc.
Mistakes from Poorly trained employees:
27.9% of surveyees attributed workplace accident incidents to poorly trained employees
Mars Wrigley, Pennsylvania confectionery factory, was fined $14.5k for a June 2022 incident in which two of its contract workers fell in the confectionery tank. It was revealed that the workers were not trained properly to enter tanks, nor were they authorized to work in tanks.(10) Handling workplace tasks and machines, especially heavy machinery, requires a certain level of training and experience. If organizations let naive workers to handle tasks that may require highly specialized and trained professionals, it is a blunder that can lead to severe damage and accidents.
If employees are injured intentionally or due to gross negligence of employers or fellow employees, the employees can sue their employers for egregious conduct.
Organizations need to invest in training employees.
"One major challenge is navigating the complex laws and regulations surrounding workplace accidents, including workers' compensation and liability issues. Employers must also ensure that they have proper safety protocols in place and provide the necessary training to prevent accidents from happening", says Brenton Thomas, Founder Twibi
Slippery surfaces resulting in fall
18.1% of respondents believe slippery surfaces are the biggest cause of workplace incidents.
The common causes of slips and falls are:
- Unattended spills, wet floors, poor-quality scaffolding, inefficient roping
- Slip hazards created during incessant snowing, raining, etc.
- Unattended slippery surfaces due to oil, grease, etc.
- Working on heights without proper training and safety gears
- Employee negligence or error of judgment can also cause fall
- Working at heights in mentally unstable conditions, under the influence of narcotics, or amidst sleep-deprived condition
In September 2022, a construction worker fell off from a rooftop of the construction site of the $2 billion-plus facility site of Ultium Cells battery.(11)
Organizations must utilize Signage at hazardous places.
Effective health and safety information, reminders, and signs placed strategically at heights and places prone to cause falls or slips will always alert workers of local hazards, provide reminders, and reinforce the safety protocols your organization has set in place, says Min Tom, CEO and Founder, Happy Hong Konger.
Reactions with Hazardous Materials
16.3% of surveyees relate reactions with hazardous materials, gases, radiations, etc., with workplace accidents.
Employees can sue their employers under the Toxic Tort Lawsuits by proving exposure to harm-causing materials at the workplace due to the employer’s negligence and inadequate safety measures.
“Workplace accidents related to reactions with hazardous materials usually occur when risks have not been properly assessed or planned for. It’s important for employers to conduct detailed risk assessments covering potential hazards, such as chemical exposure, toxic gases, traditions, etc. Policies related to such risks should be regularly reviewed and updated so that any new risks can be identified and addressed quickly,” says Eric Sornoso, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mealfan.
Over Exertion and Sleep Deprivation
11.5% of surveyees believe over-exertion or sleep deprivation results in employee collapse and workplace injuries
Sleep deprivation leads to cognitive impairment and can adversely affect memory, reflexes, and work efficiency. It can also hamper decision-making and result in misjudgment and errors. Unusually long working hours combined with sleep deprivation can damage motor skills and cognitive abilities and cause drowsiness, and sleepy employees can make grave errors resulting in fatal accidents. Sleep deprivation may increase the chances of workplace accidents by 70% as highly fatigued employees are more prone to committing errors.(12)
Unavoidable Equipment Failure
5.3% of surveyees believe unavoidable equipment failure can result in workplace accidents.
Recently, two maintenance workers at General Motors’ component plant fell 165 feet after their scaffolding failed.(13) All precautions taken by employees can be rendered useless if the safety equipment fails to provide adequate safety cover. In this particular case, the scaffolding was not made of low-quality materials; still, it failed.
Sometimes unavoidable equipment failure results in workplace accidents. However, if the equipment failure can be related to defective manufacturing, then the injured worker can sue the manufacturer with product liability claims.
“Employers should regularly inspect and maintain equipment and machinery to ensure that it is in safe working condition," says Sharon Heather, Business and Development Director, EasyMerchant Limited.
3.7% of surveyees said workplace violence is a cause of accidents at workplaces.
On paper, almost all organizations have a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. However, there are frequent reports of violent incidents at workplaces in all industries. Injuries caused to employees as a result of workplace violence put employees at legal risk. It is the duty of the employer to provide employees with a safe and violence-free working environment.
Therefore, employers need to take proactive steps to abate and mitigate workplace violence and also report any such incidents to local police authorities without fail. Employers can also reduce their legal liability by training employees to recognize, avoid, and diffuse situations that can lead to violent actions.
Employee Perception Regarding their Employer’s Attitudes towards Workplace Safety
76.3% of the surveyees mentioned that workplace injury incidents are taken very seriously at their organization.
No organization or employer will want their workplaces to be disrupted by workplace injury incidents. All organizations have strict policies and attitudes toward workplace safety measures. Around three-fourths of the surveyed employees mentioned that workplace injury incidents are not taken lightly in their organizations. However, sometimes due to other preoccupations and misjudgments, organizations may project poor handling of workplace-related incidents. 23.7% of surveyees reported that workplace injury incidents are not taken seriously, and their organization doesn’t show concerns about such incidents.
71.6% of employees asserted that their organization has systems, protocols, and tools in place to identify, prevent and deal with workplace injuries.
GoodFirms' research has already analyzed the causes that lead to workplace injuries. Workplace accidents. In most circumstances, workplace incidents are avoidable with proper planning, protocols, safety measures, employee-employer collaboration and vigilance, and a systematic approach to prevent such incidents. 71.6% of our surveyees are positive about such measures and systems incorporated by their organizations.
67.9% of surveyees asserted that employees in their organization are reprimanded for not following safety procedures.
Showing tolerance in cases of safety lapses or negligence from employees is not a good policy. Employers need to be as strict as possible when it comes to implementation, execution, and adherence to safety procedures. Employers need to take strict action against employers found violating safety norms. 67.9% of surveyees asserted that their employers are strict regarding the adherence and compliance of safety procedures, and employees get reprimanded for any violation.
61.9% of surveyed employees believe their physical safety is a priority for their manager.
The attitudes of supervisors and managers toward employee safety are a critical factor that builds the employee perception of their organization’s workplace safety priorities. Managerial roles and behaviors are more critical in high-risk industries like construction, warehousing, transportation, manufacturing, etc. Managers’ decisions have a high impact on the safety equations for the employees in these industries. While 61.9% of the employees reported their managers prioritize the physical safety of the employees, 38.1% think the opposite.
Only 39.4% of surveyees said they can freely and without fear report any safety violation to the management, even if it involves negligence from their superior.
It is the duty of employers to report workplace accident cases to authorities and regulatory bodies. Such reporting helps create more awareness to prevent similar accidents in the future, and it also sensitizes the industry. However, employers often try to under-report or hide workplace injury incidents to get away with the situation. Even the world’s biggest and most reputed organizations are no exception. For instance, Amazon was cited by OSHA to be guilty of 14 workplace accident-related recordkeeping violations, including misclassifying injuries, failing to record and report incidents to OSHA, etc.(14) Our survey also found similar doings with more than 60% of the surveyees expressing their inability to report safety violations at their workplace freely. Such fears are often an outcome of the ‘blame the victim’ or ‘unfriendliness towards whistleblowers’ types of attitude from senior management.
“As an employer, workplace accidents can be a daunting subject to tackle, considering all the liability that comes attached with them. Employers must create an environment and culture where reporting unsafe conditions are encouraged. Implementing policies that incentivize employees to speak up and report issues can drastically reduce exposure to legal proceedings due to injury or accident in the workplace,” says Nick Valentino, VP of Market Operations, BellHop.
Organizations should promote a culture where reporting safety violations or loopholes gets rewarded. Also, organizations should set an example for employees by self-reporting incidents to relevant authorities. Organizations with a culture where employees feel free to report safety concerns see reduced workplace injury incidents, more satisfied employees, and higher productivity levels.
Employers are more concerned with profitability and cost-cutting than employee safety, believe 32.8% of surveyed employees
Walmart got an 11K US dollars fine by OSHO for failing to maintain adequate safety measures in stacking pallets of boxes at its Albany-based warehouse. One of the boxes tipped over and fell on a worker. However, the federal review discarded the fine, citing that Walmart had stored the boxes individually and had not stacked them, which is a primary requirement for establishing safety negligence.
However, a second circuit review maintained that the boxes were stacked in metal storage racks that are tiered themselves, so the stacking rule applies to the case. Walmart must have ensured that the boxes in metal storage racks were blocked, interlocked, and kept at a minimum height.(15)
This particular example reveals how rather than addressing issues and helping their employees, employers exploit loopholes or ambiguity of law provisions to safeguard their interests.
In the fight for corporate expansion and achieving profits, businesses tend to direct focus away from the long-term economic advantages of a safe workplace. The impacts of globalization and the intense business rivalries further force companies to adopt unsafe practices to get ahead of their competitors.
Employers can change this perception by:
- Actively dealing with employee concerns regarding safety and accepting any viable suggestions to improve safety standards
- Creating an employee safety committee that keeps a vigil on situations that may cause any unwanted incident
- Initiating, funding, and participating in programs that promote employee safety.
“Employers should create a comprehensive workplace safety program that has clear guidelines and expectations for employees. This program should include training, monitoring, and enforcement of safety procedures. It’s important to make sure all employees are aware of the program and what is expected of them,” says CJ Xia, VP of Marketing and Sales of Boster Biological Technology.
Only 18.9% of the surveyees said that their organization proactively listens to employees' concerns regarding safety.
Frontline employees have first-hand exposure to safety-related challenges in the workplace. Involving them in safety issues, solving conversations or proactively listening to their concerns can lead to best practices and rational solutions to all safety issues. However, sadly, only 18.9% of our surveyed employees said that their organizations are open to addressing their safety concerns.
“It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker who complains to OSHA and uses their legal rights.” –OSHA
“Employers can also consider implementing an incident reporting system, encouraging open communication about safety concerns, and taking corrective action when necessary,” says Percy Grunwald, Co-Founder, Hosting Data.
Only 13.4% affirmed that workplace health and safety are considered equally important as sales, marketing, or other functions in their organization.
Organizations where workplace safety is considered to be an added burden on resources, a wastage of time and money, and unwanted or low-priority things are bound to suffer more if any unfortunate workplace accident happens at their workplaces.
Labor laws require organizations to buy insurance to cover workers’ compensation. The premiums vary based on the safety record metrics known as E-Mod factor (Experience Modification Factor).
E-Mod is developed by the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI) USA and is a critical metric that can lower the insurance premiums of organizations with good safety history.(16) For example, the worker compensation insurance’s annual premium of $100000 for an organization with an E-Mod factor of 1 can come down by 20% at $80000 if the E-Mod score is 0.8. Similarly, for an organization with a higher E-Mod (say 1.4), the same premium will go to $140000.
Worker safety has a monetary value attached to it, and therefore, it should be equaled with other functions of businesses such as marketing, sales, etc. “Safety should not be an afterthought; it is just as crucial to the success of a business as providing excellent customer service, maintaining tight inventory controls, and carefully organizing its finances,” says Claudia Torres, CEO & Founder TheFab20s
Satisfaction with Preventive Steps Taken to Avoid Workplace Injury or Fatal Incidents
Our survey has uncovered how employees perceive their employer’s attitude towards workplace safety. We also queried participants about their overall satisfaction with preventive steps taken to prevent workplace injuries. 31.2% of surveyees feel content with the preventive steps taken to avoid any workplace injury or fatal incident. 22.8% of surveyees expressed satisfaction but also felt that the current preventive steps are not adequate. 27.4% of surveyed employees expressed their dissatisfaction with the preventive steps taken to avoid workplace accidents.
How Can Technology Help In Reducing Workplace Injury Incidents?
There has been a gradual rise in organizations that implement technologies to address workplace safety concerns. A few of the technologies that can help businesses prevent workplace accident cases are mentioned below:
- Body Worn sensors can detect workplace abnormalities and enable employees to quickly send SOS to security and upper management in case of any situation that is mounting towards violence.
- Employees that work in dangerous environments and places such as mines, heights, construction sites, places prone to catch fires, etc. Such employees can be trained thoroughly in virtual environments using simulation devices based on technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.
- Drones and robotics can be used to accomplish jobs that require repeated movements that may cause musculoskeletal injuries to humans. The robotic exoskeleton can be used for jobs that require heavy lifting and continuous motion and may result in injuries due to strain, over-exertion, or sprains in human employees.
- Wearable tech can help supervisors monitor body temperature, heartbeats, oxygen levels, stress levels, etc., and send a warning if levels exceed a safe limit.
- Predictive analytics can forecast levels where any work, process, or action will reach an unsafe level.
- Tracking technologies like RFID can help employees track their employees working in remote areas or those caught in adverse weather, fire incidents, collapses, etc.
- Office ergonomics tech can help companies design the best office furniture for their employees to reduce injuries caused to unhealthy sitting postures for long hours, fatigue, and chronic back pains.
- 21.6% of GoodFirms’ surveyees mentioned having jobs involving them working with hazardous materials, risky places, equipment fall chances, and other situations that pose a risk of injury.
- 3.1% of the surveyed employees reported suffering workplace injuries.
- 54.6% of the surveyees received workplace safety training when they started their job.
- 44.3% of the respondents also asserted that they got retrained for workplace safety when they shifted to another role that required a different type of safety training.
- Only 3.7% of surveyed employees reported having a copy of the written employee safety policy provided by their organization.
- 49.2% of the surveyees asserted that employers are responsible for preventing workplace incidents.
- 44.6% think both the employees and the employers are responsible for the same.
- Only 6.2% of the surveyees believe that the responsibility to prevent workplace accidents lies with the employees.
- 100% of the employees reported having a First-Aid Kit in their organizations.
- 89.6% of surveyees reported being aware of employee insurance as a provision their organization has to address workplace injury incidents
- 21.1% of the surveyees said that their organization has collaboration with medical hospitals to treat employees in case of workplace injury incidents.
- 17.2% of the respondents reported having an in-house medical practitioner to attend workplace injury cases immediately.
- 7.6% of the surveyees mentioned their organization has a dedicated ambulance service to respond to any workplace accident quickly.
- 1.6% of the surveyees asserted that their organization has an in-house nursing and care facilities to handle workplace injury cases immediately.
- 9.6% of the employees are totally unaware of the workplace safety measures taken by their employers.
- 69.5% of the surveyed employees reported having an emergency contact number or a safety committee to report immediately in case of a workplace accident.
- Poor safety measures at the workplace are the topmost cause of workplace injuries, say 79.3% of the surveyed employees.
- Employee negligence is a significant reason for workplace injuries, asserts 68.7% of the surveyees.
- 57.3% of surveyed employees indicated that judgment errors are the primary cause of workplace accidents.
- As per 41.5% of surveyees, low-quality equipment is responsible for workplace injuries and accidents.
- 36.2% of the surveyees attribute workplace injuries to repetitive tasks causing strain on the body part.
- 31.8% attributed workplace accidents to poorly designed workplaces.
- 27.9% of the surveyees attributed workplace accident incidents to poorly trained employees.
- 18.1% of the respondents believe slippery surfaces are the biggest cause of workplace incidents.
- 16.3% of the surveyees relate reactions with hazardous materials, gases, radiations, etc., with workplace accidents.
- 11.5% of the surveyees believe over-exertion or sleep deprivation results in employee collapse and workplace injuries.
- Only 13.4% affirmed that workplace health and safety are considered equally important as sales, marketing, or other functions in their organization.
- Employers are more concerned with profitability and cost-cutting than employee safety, believe 32.8% of surveyed employees.
- 61.9% of the surveyed employees believe their physical safety is a priority for their manager.
- 76.3% of the surveyees mentioned that workplace injury incidents are taken very seriously at their organization.
- 67.9% of surveyees asserted that the employees in their organization are reprimanded for not following the safety procedures.
Outdated approaches to workplace safety endanger workers’ lives and impede organizations’ growth prospects. Mere spending on workplace safety tools and arrangements is not enough; how businesses control their safety processes, how seriously they approach workplace safety issues, and how they prioritize employee safety are equally important. Otherwise, it is difficult to reduce workplace incidents even after spending a ton of money.
New, innovative, and technology-backed solutions are required to support the next level of workplace safety. Organizations can gain better control over their safety mechanisms through enterprise-wide conversations with all stakeholders (from C-Suite to front-line workers). Operational transformation and strategic approaches can also help to address workplace safety issues.
We sincerely thank our Research Partners for their valuable insights.
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