Insuring Your Business: Small Business Owners' Guide to Insurance

For most employers the cost of an employee’s work-related injury is covered by workers compensation insurance, which pays for medical care and replaces some of the income that the injured employee lost while unable to work. There is no coverage, however, for the hidden costs to your organization of that injury, such as reduced efficiency, the cost of training replacements and increased overtime expenditures. The effects can be particularly pronounced in a smaller enterprise. 

On-the-job injuries or vehicle accidents aren’t limited to occupations that are obviously dangerous. In most years the top three causes of injuries in the workplace are overexertion (injuries caused from excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing of an object), falls on level ground and bodily reaction (injuries from bending, climbing, slipping or tripping without falling). Such injuries can affect workers in most environments. Whatever your industry, attention to such risks can pay dividends.

Employees should be trained to recognize hazards and to report them to the appropriate person so that the hazard can be corrected as soon as possible. Work requirements involving safety should take precedence over any other.

Any near miss, first aid incident, accident or other workplace injury-related event should be investigated. Where possible, the investigation should be carried out immediately by a team that includes both management and hourly employees, all of whom have been trained in incident investigation. The goal of investigations is to identify the cause of the accident or injury rather than assign blame and to correct any hazards or other problem found, such as poor communication.

Supervisors and managers should also be trained to recognize and correct unsafe behaviors that can lead to injuries, including rushing, frustration, complacency and fatigue.

Once a year a team should review all incidents from the prior year to see whether there are any patterns in the accidents and, if so, how to address the problems identified.

Each work site should confer with its fire and police departments and hospital about plans for all potential emergencies, including fire, explosion, accident, severe weather, loss of power and violence. Emergency drills should be used to ensure that employees know what to do and to assess the effectivenes of emergency plans.

Depending on the size and nature of your business, you may want to have employees on each work shift trained by qualified Red Cross instructors to provide first aid and CPR. Someone should be designated to keep first aid kits stocked and accessible.

For additional information, visit the Web site of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration . Other useful resources include your insurance agent and insurer, trade or industry organizations and the Internet.