Contrary to popular belief, today’s workers are safer on the job than they are at home or in their communities. According to the National Safety Council, recent gains in lowering workplace death rates — down 17 percent since 1992 — have been undone by the rate of fatalities occurring off the job, up 14 percent in that same period.
And while corporate America has made dramatic gains in workplace safety, businesses are losing money on accidents unrelated to the workplace.
“The business costs of off-the-job accidents is staggering when you take into account lost wages and productivity, medical and disability payments, and training for new employees,” said Alan McMillan, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.
According to 2004 National Safety Council statistics being presented at the nation’s first Off the Job Safety Symposium in Orlando later this month, twice as many workers — or 6.8 million — were seriously injured while off the job than were injured while working. And of the 49,000 injury-related deaths in 2004 involving workers, roughly 90 percent occurred while employees were off the job.
In 2004, the cost of employee injuries — both on and off the job — was more than $330 billion. Nearly 60 percent — or $200 billion — was for injuries to employees who were off the job. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more is spent by private health insurance on medical care associated with trauma and poisoning for people of working age than for any other health condition including cancer, heart conditions, mental disorders or upper respiratory conditions and asthma.
In addition, off-the-job injuries accounted for employers losing 165 million days of production time, compared with 80 million lost work-days as a result of workplace injuries.
Increasingly, businesses are recognizing the value of keeping their employees safe at all times both on and off the job. In a recent National Safety Council survey of 1,300 companies of varying sizes, the impact of off-the-job safety training has begun to be felt at businesses that have implemented programs. Of those who have implemented off-the-job programs, 58 percent reported reductions in injuries occurring outside of work.
In addition, research presented at the 17th World Congress on Safety and Health at Work last fall found that for every dollar businesses spend on safety, they realize a $3 to $6 savings.
Gary Kopps, manager of Occupational Safety Worldwide for John Deere and Co., noted that corporate-sponsored safety initiatives are a win-win for both businesses and their employees.
“Employees value that you take time to remind them about safety, and they pay you back many times over through loyalty, increased productivity and quality, and reduced absenteeism,” said Kopps, who will present the John Deere business case for off-the-job safety at the upcoming Off-the-Job Symposium.
Safety and health experts from Intel, Johnson & Johnson and Sara Lee will also present their corporate off-the-job case studies.
The Off-the-Job Safety Symposium is being held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 15-16.
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