Because falls are so prevalent, numerous OSHA Standards outline what an employer must do to provide fall protection for its employees. Unfortunately, many businesses find it difficult to cost justify safety systems. Justifying a project that costs money without a perceived benefit to the “bottom line” is a daunting task. However, there is a positive return on investment (ROI) when the costs related to a workplace fall are considered. This brief offers some ideas to consider.
First, consider the associated costs. Falls to a lower level result in an average of 19 days away from work (https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/safety-topics/falls-lower-level). In addition to paying the employee for the time off, there are medical, workers’ compensation, legal, and administrative expenses incurred for a fall. If your company is like most, you may not have extra employees or employees trained for the missing worker’s job during his or her extended absence. Therefore, productivity declines and temporary staff may be needed. Injuryfacts.nsc.org estimates the average cost of slips and falls to be $49,297 per incident; moreover, if the fall is fatal, average costs escalate to $1.12 million.
Next, include your company’s history with and risks for fall-related injuries. How many fall-related injuries has your business experienced in recent years? Consider the number of elevated surfaces in your facility. How many have unprotected sides? How many employees work on those surfaces? Answers to these questions will help determine your risk.
Additionally, OSHA fines may apply. While the amounts of fines vary, OSHA increased maximum penalties in January 2018, to $12,934 per violation for serious and other-than-serious posting requirements, $12,934 per day for failure to abate, and $129,336 per violation for willful or repeated violations (https://www.osha.gov/penalties/). Many fines are assessed after a workplace injury occurs or someone files a complaint. Avoidance of these fines should factor into the ROI calculation.
One other consideration is your insurance. Since you are reducing risk in your workplace, you may be able to reduce your worker’s compensation and other insurance premiums. Check with your insurance provider.
There are real costs associated with falls. Preventing falls will improve the “bottom line”. When the medical, legal, worker’s compensation and other related expenses are included with the potential for fines, a positive ROI becomes a reality. Then the real question becomes can you afford not to implement fall protection instead of can you afford it?