You Should Care About Preventing Personal Injuries If You’re a Boss

One of the problems with a lot of work safety measures is that they place a lot of the burden on the over-worked, stressed-out workers themselves. The bosses are allegedly the people who are supposed to be running the ship, and it’s the crew that picks up the slack. Bosses who don’t care about workplace safety should remember that you don’t have to be a humanitarian to care about this kind of thing.

The people who run businesses tend to think of basic compassion as a business expense, so I don’t usually try to appeal to their consciences when I’m trying to make this kind of case to them. I want to point out that a lack of compassion can be an even bigger business expense. The idea that business ethics are smart and not just kind needs to be floated around a lot more, and it just isn’t.

The United States spends 250 billion dollars a year on workplace injuries and illnesses. It isn’t just the government soaking up that money, either. Businesses themselves take a lot of the fall. Some businesses close down altogether because of the expense of workplace injuries and illnesses. Even the businesses who survive under these circumstances are going to lose a huge amount of money just because of the high employee turnover and similar issues.

If you’re a boss and you spend a little extra money on training and on safety techniques, you can save your business a lot of money. You might even save your business. You’ll keep your employees and they’ll stay loyal. You will also keep regulatory agencies off your back.

Overworking your employees and expecting them to do the jobs of several people at once is not even an effective short-term solution. You’re going to get a bad job out of the people who actually are working, and you’re putting all of them at risk for getting some sort of employee injury. I know that making one person do the work of three people is all the rage these days, but business owners are supposed to be able to rise above certain trends in order to create new ones. If there’s one trend that needs to go, it’s this one.

Preventing Workplace Injuries Caused By Overexertion

Obviously, the ways of preventing injuries on the job are going to vary according to your job. Ideally, you work at a job where the worst injury you’ll ever have will come from overheated coffee. However, not all of us have that luxury. I tend to think that it’s more useful to actually group injuries according to categories. The most common injuries that happen at given jobs will be part of whole categories of personal injuries, which means that learning the right techniques will be able to help you prevent several personal injuries and not just a few.

Most personal injuries happen at work because of sheer physical exhaustion and overexertion. It’s pretty horrifying to think of how many different accidents and problems could be prevented from just allowing workers to take a break and ask for help, but therein lies the situation.

Whenever I’m in a position to be asked about what would be the quickest way to fix almost all work-related problems in the United States and lots of other countries, I always tell people: somehow find a way to allow everyone involved to get a full night’s sleep every single night. When I was a construction foreman, I’m pretty sure that getting six hours of sleep a night was a good day for me, and getting four hours of sleep per night wasn’t even a special day.

The thing is overexertion isn’t just caused by the fact that everyone is really tired and they’re basically primed to make all sorts of mistakes before they even walk in the door and start working, although that’s definitely part of the issue. They expect you to do way too much when you’re actually on the job. In construction, we had all sorts of deadlines in place for when our work had to get done, and we’re talking about work that demands a lot of little complicated steps and that can be foiled by a person tripping and falling and damaging some materials.

In 2010 alone, the United States spent 13.61 billion dollars on workplace injuries that can be attributed to overexertion. Too much throwing, lifting, carrying, holding, or pulling can really injure a person. Around 26.8 percent of workplace injuries fall into the overexertion category of workplace injuries.

I call also tell you from experience that just because you don’t get injured in a way that costs the company money, it doesn’t mean that your body is in great shape as a result of all of those hours and hours spent overexerting yourself in the construction field. I don’t care about how old I am: I know plenty of people my age and older who are in better shape than me, and it’s never surprising to learn that they chose a different line of work than I did and were able to do so.

You don’t have to live until retirement age to feel it in your bones, your muscles, and everywhere else, either. You’ll feel the effects of overexertion when you get home from work every day. All of those days will add up, and it isn’t true that it’s all just going to make you stronger and more muscular, regardless of what the popular stereotype says. Really, all of that tension and all of those problems are just going to add up, which is setting you up for the sort of injury on the job that is actually going to cost the company money. Typically, then and only then are they actually going to take any action at all. You’ll be wondering why they couldn’t just have done all of that a little earlier.

The solution to overexertion is usually as follows: get help. Get help from your construction crew members or your teammates. Get the assistance of a device: that’s what it’s there for, after all, and it’s the modern world. Don’t try to be a hero: they do things that require bold and temporary action, not things that require constant effort and dedication. If other people are criticizing you for it, don’t listen to them. You are all supposed to be a team, and that shouldn’t be a nominal distinction.

Sometimes, people fall victim to overexertion because they just don’t know the right techniques and they haven’t had the right training. Bosses need to take that into consideration when their employees are showing signs of overexertion. Working smarter and not harder is a good rule for all professions, and not just the professions that people think of as the ‘smart’ jobs.

Are Workplace Injuries Accidental?

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When lots of people picture workplace injuries, they’re usually imagining someone or something tripping or falling. Yes: that’s usually how it happens. Most injuries that aren’t attributed to sheer exhaustion and overwork can be attributed to these kinds of seemingly random happenstances. You think you’re minding your own business working and then something collides with your head. You think you’re okay and then you end up losing your balance and paying for it for the rest of your life.

Lots of people think that these kinds of accidents are just that: accidents. They are so random and difficult to predict that people should just accept them as hazards of jobs like construction work in the first place, and that they’ll always be with us. It’s true that we’re probably never going to stop people from falling or dropping things, but we can at least make it less likely that these minor problems will cause major ones.

I tend to believe that something only counts as an accident if it was a complete coincidence. If you can see something coming and lots of factors that you ignored led to it, then you really need to stop treating it like it was proof of the randomness of life.

If the scaffolding at your construction site is falling apart, then people are going to fall, and falling tools are going to injure other people. Just because it didn’t happen for a while doesn’t mean that it was ever safe. Most of the workplace injuries that I’ve seen on the job happened because of negligence like that. It also usually wasn’t the workers’ fault, even though they were the ones who usually absorbed all of the burden.

Workers are told that preventing accidents is their problem too often. There is only so much anyone can do with an unsafe work environment. Preventing workplace injuries is a group effort, which is all the more reason why there is nothing truly accidental about most injuries. A lot of people screwed up when they happen, and not just one at a time.

Filing Complaints with OSHA

I feel like a lot of workers seem to live under the impression that we’re still living in 1900. It can definitely feel like that sometimes, even with all of the smartphones. The thing is, you do have options these days, and you can use them. You’re not a troublemaker if you report a violation at work. OSHA isn’t going to let everyone know who it was that called them.

You’re usually not taking a risk by filing a complaint with OSHA. OSHA will keep all of your information confidential. They know how workplace environments are.

If there’s any doubt that you’re living in the twenty-first century, you can actually file your OSHA complaint online. There is a set complaint form that you can use, and it’s pretty easy to fill out. You can go to the library to do all of that if you don’t have the right equipment at home or don’t want to use it for whatever reason.

You can also download this form and fax it or mail it. Some people actually fax things online, strangely enough, so there are plenty of options. If you’re more comfortable with the telephone, you can call your local OSHA Regional or Area Office. The 1-800-321-OSHA can even help during emergency situations.

OSHA will inspect your workplace following one of these complaints, and you may be this close to making your work area better for everyone as a result of this complaint. You might be worried that it isn’t going to make much of a difference. The thing is, I can tell you that lots of bosses hate OSHA and live in fear of these inspections. Their fear really is justified, and they really can make a difference for the little guy fighting the big guy.