The complex impact of work injuries

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Most of work injuries are caused by a lack of adequate protocols, or poor corporate compromise of managers and workers. Oversights that during 2018 generated losses of US $ 59,000 million for US companies, and that also leave a deep negative impact on the industrial and productive activity of Chile.

Occupational safety is, without a doubt, one of the most important structural pillars of the competitiveness of companies. In other words, without an adequate prevention, control and inspection policy, it is impossible to be efficient or productive.

Not only because any accident implies delaying production or damaging equipment and infrastructure, but also losing, temporarily or even permanently, the valuable contribution that human talent and capital represent for the achievement of strategic objectives.

From this point of view, it is important to emphasize that any good workplace safety policy starts by educating and raising awareness among the own team. This means designing a plan known to all, and that also provides the opportunity to carry out constant training programs, both to bosses and subordinates.

In turn, it is important to take advantage of all that digital technology offers today through the use of applications and solutions that help to modernize both the design of the respective security plans, as well as their application and control in all types of tasks or activities.

The cost of not preventing work injuries

Virtually all incidents that often happen in the workplace can be prevented, or at least reduced. To do this, it is enough to pay attention to the respective environment, and take the appropriate measures.

A task that, at first glance, may seem complex and apparently expensive, but if it is not carried out, it generates much more serious negative impacts on company assets, in terms of both human and material losses.

On the contrary, if the professionals in charge of risk prevention carried out an efficient management, practicing periodic safety inspections and promoting the education of the team, the risk of being injured on the job would be significantly reduced. As well as, any economic cost related to the loss of workforce, infrastructure, machinery or days of work.

In this regard, a recent study prepared by the specialized company Liberty Mutual, called “2021 Workplace Safety Index”, established that during 2018 the injuries caused by work accidents caused losses for a total of US $ 58,600 million, only among the United States workforce.

Liberty analysis focused on the negative impact of any injury caused by work accidents, which meant five or more days of medical leave. As a result, it was concluded that, on average, US companies lost about US $ 1 billion a week, simply because they did not have properly established security protocols, or because they were not respected.

A reality not far from our country, because according to the records of the Chilean Safety Association, ACHS, the direct and indirect costs associated with injuries at work, exceed US $ 3,000 million per year.

Main work injuries and associated costs

According to the study conducted by Liberty Mutual, the main work injuries caused by workplace accidents are as follows:

Overexertion and body reaction

These types of situations currently represent the absolute first place in this accident rate ranking. In fact, according to Liberty data, approximately 33 incidents caused by overexertion are recognized for every 10,000 workers who today work full-time.

These types of overexertion injuries are very common in sectors such as manufacturing, exploitation of natural resources and transportation, because part of the work activities carried out by operators require high physical effort and repetitive movements such as carrying, holding, lifting and throwing things, among others.

Thus, when employers do not sufficiently consider the physical capacity of their employees, or they are not properly trained to perform a specific task, injuries often result in sprains, contusions or strains of muscles, tendons and / or ligaments.

According to Liberty Mutual data, injuries resulting from excessive effort involving external sources generate costs for companies of US $ 13,110 million, regardless of the sector where they carry out their activities. In turn, in the specific areas of manufacturing and transportation, this excessive effort represented losses of US $ 1,770 and US $ 1,210 million, respectively.

Falls, slips and trips

Besides overexertion injuries, falls from ground level represent the second most common cause of workplace injuries. In this area, service companies, such as hotels and restaurants, are the most common scenario for workers to suffer this type of incident. According to statistics collected by Liberty, there are approximately 27 falls, for every 10,000 full-time workers.

Depending on the specific conditions of the workplace, the workforce may be exposed to different types of hazards, including traveling on wet or oily surfaces, the risk of falling into cracks, or tripping over objects thrown on the floor. A risk that is further increased when considering the fact that employees do not always use PPR (Personal Protective Equipment) or footwear suitable for walking on uneven surfaces, when performing these types of tasks. Something that, on the contrary, is normal in industries that work under extreme weather conditions or other environmental conditions.

The cost that businesses face due to injury caused by falls, slips and trips is $ 10,038 million. In the professional services industry, meanwhile, the cost of falls to the ground level was $ 1,920 million; while the leisure and hotel sector recorded losses of $ 1,040 million.

Contact with objects and equipment

In the third place on this list, we found the risk of being trapped by an object and / or equipment appears. An instance that records an approximate statistic of 24 incidents of this nature for every 10,000 full-time workers.

These are situations in which, for example, workers are injured by a falling object that hits them, or they are trapped under a material structure or collapsing machinery, among other options.

It is common that behind these types of injuries there is a lack of adequate training, and untidiness in the field evaluations that must be done periodically to detect defective equipment. Even in these cases it is possible to detect lack of application of basic safety behaviors among employees.

Injuries caused by contact with objects and equipment today represent expenses of US $ 5.22 billion for US companies. The main sectors where these incidents are registered are construction (US $ 1,720 million), wholesale sales (US $ 680 million) and retail trade (US $ 730 million).

Given these hefty numbers, it is absolutely critical for companies to have efficient safety procedures in place while understanding the root causes of all types of injuries that can occur in the workplace.

In the same way, it is essential that all professionals have adequate tools and equipment to reinforce and add value to their security.

Only in this way will it be possible to effectively protect the workforce, and reduce the economic impact of these incidents, in terms of competitiveness and efficiency.

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About the author

Francisco Gonzalez
Francisco Gonzalez

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