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Midsize manufacturers can target growth and profitability more effectively by preventing workplace injuries.
After a difficult 2020 marked by plant shutdowns and disruptions due to the coronavirus pandemic, manufacturing in virtually all industry segments is poised for dramatic growth in 2021. Many economists see manufacturing roaring back to pre-COVID-19 levels as vaccines help make workplaces safer and pent-up demand for manufactured product shifts into high gear.
However, one of the byproducts of a manufacturing segment ramping up after a challenging year will likely be an increase in workplace accidents and injuries, which have always been among the most common hazards in manufacturing.
National Safety Council statistics for 2019, the most recent available, show that the total cost of work injuries that year was $171 billion. This figure includes wage and productivity losses of $53.9 billion, medical expenses of $35.5 billion, and administrative expenses of $59.7 billion.1
The risks of workplace accidents and injuries exist in any manufacturing environment. Ironically, the most common cause of injury is also the most mundane. Zurich Claims data shows that slips, trips, falls and strains account for nearly 50% of all Workers’ Compensation claims — with strains taking the lead — in terms of frequency.2 And in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available, manufacturing accounted for 15% of all private industry nonfatal injuries and illnesses.3
According to the National Safety Council, the three leading causes of work-related injuries — overexertion and bodily reaction; slips, trips and falls; and contact with objects and equipment — account for more than 84% of all nonfatal injuries involving days away from work.4 All three are hazards to be found in virtually all industrial and manufacturing settings.
And with a growing number of older workers, employers in all industries, including manufacturing, are facing elevated risks of worker injuries and illnesses. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 41.3 percent of 55-to-64-year-olds who were on the job in 2018 had had a work-related health issue. That contrasts with a 21.7 percent rate reported by 18-to-24-year-old employees. Among those 64 or younger, the rate rose with each decade measured, ranging from 34.5 to 39.5 percent from ages 25 to 54.5
Build a formal injury prevention strategy
As the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes, the best way to minimize workplace injuries and related insurance costs is to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. The following steps can be the foundation for a formal, comprehensive workplace safety program to help reduce the risk of injury:6
- Engage management and employees - Businesses are most successful improving workplace safety when leadership and employees collaborate. Responsibility for workplace safety should be part of everyone’s job, and specific employees and managers should be tasked with implementing, maintaining and improving workplace safety program components.
- Analyze your workplace and operations - Evaluate your business from top to bottom. Review your equipment as well as all workplace activities. As part of your evaluation, talk to employees to hear their safety concerns. Also, whenever you add new operations, equipment or facilities to your business, analyze these for risks as well.
- Mitigate hazards - When hazards are identified, remove or control them by replacing or fixing equipment, adding new safety measures or changing workplace operations.
- Implement training - Train employees about workplace safety and how to identify hazards. Include workplace safety training as part of employee onboarding and offer refresher training on a regular basis.
- Review, respond and improve – Review and improve your program on an ongoing basis – especially in response to accidents or “near misses.” Employees should always be encouraged to report newly identified hazards or workplace incidents so that you can respond appropriately.
A mindset for prevention
By being aware of the many employee injury risks common to your manufacturing business — and by taking affirmative steps to mitigate them through prudent risk management and appropriate insurance solutions — midsize manufacturers will build resilience that will help deliver a powerful future of growth, customer focus, profitability and sustainability.
Also critical to any organization, is having the right people and programs in place to help ensure that your injured workers receive quality medical care while also effectively managing medically related costs. Zurich’s integrated medical management services take advantage of on-staff dedicated specialists, nurses and physician advisers, as well as a robust network of providers working together to provide technical experience and high-quality customer service.
Read more about Zurich solutions and risk insights for manufacturers.
Be sure to read our article on the Top 5 Risks Facing Middle Market Manufacturers
- “Work Injury Costs.” National Safety Council. 2021.
- Zurich Claims Data.
- “Top 10 Average Severity by SIC Division and Accident Description Group, Accident Years: 2015-2019.” Zurich Claims Data.
- “Injury Facts – Work Injury Costs.” National Safety Council. 2020. (www.nsc.org)
- “Employer-Reported Workplace Injury and Illnesses, 2019.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
4 November 2020. (www.bls.gov)
- “Steps to reduce workplace injuries.“ Insurance Information Institute. 2021.
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