How COVID-19 adds to the already significant cost of safety
Work injuries, and work-related fatalities and illness is a significant expense for almost every employer. According to the 2020 Liberty Mutual Safety Index, employers spent more than $1 billion a week for non-fatal, work-related injuries, many of which could have been avoided. That is almost $60 billion a year! The National Safety Council (NSF) has a higher estimate of $3 billion a week ($151 billion pre-COVID-19) when work-related deaths were accounted for.
Protecting the health and safety of employees is a significant expense for employers due to compensation, insurance, fines, and other related expenses; COVID-19 has added to these costs, especially since many workplaces have to take extra precautions to protect their workers. In addition to the added expenses of implementing these preventative measures, new fines for violating safety standards are continually being introduced and enforced by labor organizations to make sure employers are taking these safety precautions seriously.
A study released last year by the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) shows that employee benefits for absent workers due to COVID-19 could cost employers $23 billion for every 5 million people infected with COVID-19. Currently, the United States alone has 31 million cases, meaning that employers are paying out-of-pocket with huge amounts of money to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and short-term disabilities.
According to the IBI, even if employees were to use up sick days when sick, they will still lose an average of $2000 in earnings if they get COVID-19. The IBI also predicts that Short Term Disability could account for up to 75% of the disability premiums collected, and insurance companies, as well as employers, will be spending significant resources on lost work pay.
In response to President Biden’s executive order on protecting the health and safety of workers, OSHA recently launched the National Emphasis Program (NEP) that focuses enforcement efforts on companies that put a large number of employees at risk for contracting COVID-19 as well as those who retaliate against workers who complain about unsafe and unhealthy working conditions.
NEP addresses policies and procedures that ensure that workers who work in high-hazard industries or whose work exposes them significantly to SAR-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) are protected. NEP augments the existing OSHA efforts against safety reports and complaints, as well as adds an extra layer of protection for workers by targeting specific, high-hazard industries. This means that employers, especially those within these targeted industries, have to streamline their process to stay in compliance with NEP policies. NEP also protects workers from retaliation from employers and will promptly report any employer to the Whistleblower Protection Program, an OSHA program established to protect employees who report workplace safety and health violations, amongst others.
Since the COVID-19 virus is dynamic and changes are made so often as new findings are released, it can be a challenge for companies to be at the forefront of the most recent NEP/OSHA/other agency updates about COVID-19. Yet failing to implement any new COVID-19 safety updates within a reasonable time not only puts workers at unnecessary risk but also leaves a company open to COVID-19-related citations and fines, which adds to the cost of safety on employers.
With additional expenses attributed to creating a healthy and safe environment for workers, including physically modifying the workplace to accommodate for social distancing and other safety processes, employers are finding themselves spending more to comply with federal and state regulations. Some of these costs cannot be helped; however, businesses can streamline their process and minimize spending by:
- Educating the staff about COVID-19 and providing valuable and accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccination
- Taking extra precautions within the workplace to protect against the spread of COVID-19
- Implementing digital systems such as SafeyTek to manage real-time safety and health data to help increase compliance, reduce incidents, and reduce fines
The SmartMarket report on Building a Safety Culture estimates that employers who invest in safety and health management systems can save up to $10 for every dollar spent in safety and health programs. OSHA suggests that employers with successful safety and health programs can reduce the cost associated with injury and illness by about 20–40% which also leads to:
- Lower absenteeism
- Reduced worker turnover
- Increased productivity
- Boost in employee morale
- Reduced long-term effects associated with illnesses
Ultimately, having a safe and healthy workplace not only provides a more secure and caring work environment but also directly leads to savings for the employer from reduced illnesses.
To find out how SafetyTek can help your organization curb costs, talk to one of our safety experts.