Monday, January 3, 2011

Going home whole and healthy is priceless

Contributed by Mary Czaja, Safety Intern, Evergreen Safety Council

$1.1 Million is a lot of holiday bonuses, raises, new hires, and money for reinvestment in employees and infrastructure. The violations range from $300,000 for exposing workers to hazardous chemicals to $46,200 for failure to adequately train forklift operators at the Post Office in Des Moines, Iowa. That $1.1 million is from two weeks. Two weeks. Multiply that by the 52 weeks we work in a year. It adds up to millions and millions of dollars that could be going back to business and workers.

Washington State, according to Dianna Jackson of L&I, fined business for a total of 3,301,349 dollars in 2009. The average fine for a serious violation was $479.00. Money sent to the state in the form of fines affects the bottom line. In this economy, the 2.9 average number of violations per initial inspection may add up to an unprofitable year.

According to the Washington State OSHA Annual Report, the ultimate goal of DOSH in partnership with OSHA, is for every worker to go home whole and healthy every day. Until employers make this a reality, inspections and fines are the primary tool for shedding light on the unsafe working conditions faced by the average worker. These fines are punitive in nature and can never replace the lives lost, damaged or scarred by the conditions cited.

Committing to safety starts with the employer and ends with each worker. Initial training, re-training, and a culture that values the well-being of employees will go a long way towards stemming the tide of fines, death, and lose of productivity due to injury. The $1.1 million levied by OSHA would be better spent on educating and training workers in fall protection, forklift operations, respiratory protection, first aid and CPR. Seeing hazards for what they are and fixing them before an inspection would reduce the amount of money lost to fines and increase the bottom line. Keeping workers safe is the right thing to do and makes good fiscal sense.

In this economy who can afford fines, increased claims costs and the loss of productivity associated with inspections and incidents? Safety may have some upfront costs, but in the end, it pays back. It pays towards the bottom line, it pays off in productively and most importantly, it saves lives. Going home whole and healthy is priceless.

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