Occupational Health Program, Coordinator
Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
Every day across this county millions of Americans go to work outside
of the home. They go to their place of employment to make money, to be
able to pay their bills, to be able to take care of their families. Most
of them never think about the different ways their employer works to keep
them safe. Many of them never think about the ways they themselves can
help keep their workplace safe. It never crosses their mind. However the
employees overall health and mindfulness can mean the success or failure
of the very business they need in order to take care of their family and
get a head in life. A healthy workplace culture is the foundation of a
successful organization, with success being measured in several different
ways: Rates of absenteeism, incidents of occupational injuries and employee
engagement and satisfaction.
Sadly it comes as no surprise that Montana has one of the worst workplace
safety records in the nation. According to the Montana Department of Labor
and Industry 2014 report our workplace incidence rate is 47 percent higher
than the national average. Our duration of claims stretches much longer
than most other states. And our average cost per medical case for workplace
injuries is 55 percent above that of the rest of the nation. In Montana,
injured workers stay out of work an average of 23 days longer than workers
in the rest of the country. The associated costs are significant.
Workers who stay out of work longer are less likely to ever return to
their positions. They are more likely to develop serious complications
and psychological issues. They are also more likely to lose traction in
their careers-setting back their lifetime earnings. Companies suffer,
too. Those additional 23 days are expensive in terms of workers' compensation
and health care payments. They also result in lost productivity and additional
costs to train new employees to take over injured workers' duties.
In Montana, workplace tragedies stretch across genders, age groups, industries
and geography. They affect every business in the form of higher workers'
compensation rates. They devastate far too many Montana families, personally
and financially. Reversing these trends is vital for the financial, emotional
and physical health of our citizens. A serious workplace injury or death
changes lives forever - for families, friends, communities, and coworkers
too. Human loss and suffering is immeasurable. Occupational injuries and
illnesses can provoke major crises for the families in which they occur.
In addition to major financial burdens, they can impose substantial time
demands on uninjured family members. Every person who leaves for work
in the morning should expect to return home at night in good health. Can
you imagine the knock on the door to tell you your loved one will never
be returning home? Or the phone call to say he's in the hospital and
may never walk again? Ensuring that husbands return to their wives, wives
to their husbands, parents to their children, and friends to their friends
- that is the most important reason to create a safe and healthy work
It begins by creating safer workplaces. Workplaces with comprehensive
safety plans and safety committees that routinely work to improve a company's
overall safety. Workplaces that put safety first, whether they're
baking pies, running heavy equipment or doing data entry. But most important
of all, it requires focused attention from workers themselves. Each of
us is responsible for creating a culture of safety, following rules, wearing
personal protective equipment and improving conditions when necessary.
These are little things that are often overlooked; it only takes a momentary
lapse or little short cut to change a life forever. As a state, we've
had far too many of those.
It's time we all put safety at the top of the "this is important" list.
Whereas employee safety should be every company's top priory it isn't
the only reason to improve your business practices. There are many benefits
to structuring appropriate job descriptions, offering extra training,
doing pre-employment screenings and even offering onsite consultations.
REDUCING INJURIES REDUCES COSTS TO YOUR BUSINESS:
If a worker is injured on the job, it costs the company in lost work hours,
increased insurance rates, workers' compensation premiums and possible
litigation. Productivity is lost when other workers have to stop work
to deal with the injury. Even after the injured employee has been sent
home, taken to the clinic or hospital, other employees may be distracted
or need to take time off from work in the aftermath of the incident. Even
a single injury can have far-reaching and debilitating effects on your business.
SAFE WORKERS ARE LOYAL WORKERS:
Any business knows that employee absenteeism is a major obstacle. When
you create a healthy and safe workplace, you reduce this issue in several
ways. By budgeting for safety improvements and making safety part of your
operational plan, you engender trust. By involving employees in safety
decisions-through reporting, committees, walk-throughs and meetings-you
show that their opinion matters to you. By following through on their
input and improving safety, you prove quite tangibly that you care about
their well-being. Workers typically respond by working harder, showing
more pride in their jobs and remaining loyal.
SAFETY IMPROVES QUALITY:
Time and again, companies that put safety first turn out higher quality
products. In some cases, that's because a safe workplace tends to
be a more efficient one, free of debris and tangles of cords. In other
cases, it's a matter of focus. By working in a clean, efficient environment,
workers are able to reduce distractions and truly focus on the quality
of what they do. The results?
Better products that create customer loyalty, bigger margins and increased sales.
In these ways and others workplace safety is about much more than legislation.
It's about creating the kind of productive, efficient, happy and inspiring
workplace we all want to be part of. It's about creating a highly
Every business should have the same goal, and that goal should be to change
the historical pattern of work in Montana as one of high risk, high injury
and high cost. Every worker should go home at the end of the day safe,
in one piece.
References: 2014 Montana Department of Labor and Industry report
. 2014 The national Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
. 2017 WorkSafeMT
Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please
contact Desiree Tibbs, Program Coordinator at Marcus Daly Occupational
Health Services, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton, MT 59840. Working together
to build a healthier community!