Prevention programs have big impact on small businesses

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), simple and affordable injury and illness prevention programs have proven to achieve results while lowering costs for small businesses.

"Safety is good business. An effective safety and health program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested," states OSHA. "It's the right thing to do, and doing it right pays off in lower costs, increased productivity, and higher employee morale."

OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognizes small businesses that maintain outstanding safety programs. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation spent 12 years studying safety at 16 SHARP facilities before and after achieving SHARP status and found that these employers experienced:

· A 52% reduction in the number of claims

· An 80% reduction in the average cost of claims

· An 87% decrease in the amount of time lost per claim

· An 88% decrease in the number of claims per million dollars of payroll

Another study of 9 SHARP companies conducted by OSHA provided compelling evidence that prevention programs offer additional benefits for small businesses. Some of the positive changes these workplaces experienced after starting a safety program included:

· Decreased injuries and illnesses on the job

· Better compliance

· Less money spent on workers’ compensation premiums

· Less time spent filing injury and illness paperwork, training new workers, and managing workers’ compensation cases

· Improved productivity

· More efficient operations and use of materials

· A more favorable image in the community

OSHA offers the following helpful advice for employers who are interested in reaping the benefits of a workplace safety program:

1. Analyze the workplace. One way to get started immediately on developing an injury and illness prevention program is to take advantage of OSHA’s on-site Consultation Service, which is free for businesses. This program helps employers to evaluate workplace safety, identify hazards, and create a health and safety management program. After conducting a thorough assessment of the facility, the consultant will make recommendations for correcting safety issues, make suggestions for safety supplies that could help protect workers, and connect the employer with resources like training and technical assistance. Consultation Services are entirely separate from regular OSHA inspections. No citations or penalties are issued during these visits. The only action required of an employer that requests Consultation is that they must correct any serious safety hazards in a timely manner.

2. Involve management and workers. Create a sound safety partnership between employers and employees that includes publicly posting safety policies, gathering feedback from employees on safety policies, holding safety meetings, and investing resources in the prevention program.

3. Train everyone. It is important to educate everyone on proper health and safety procedures. Employers that need assistance with training can ask their OSHA consultant for recommendations or affordable options.

4. Regularly evaluate the prevention program. Staff involved in managing the safety program should regularly measure the results. Policies that are not achieving their intended purposes can then be modified and those that are effective can be validated, celebrated, and continued.

Take advantage of available resources to develop a solid safety program that can reduce injuries, increase productivity, and lower costs.

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