What Will It Cost Me If Someone Falls?
Asking, “What will it cost me if someone falls?” seems to be a pretty cold, cynical way to look at things. Thankfully, most people don’t approach safety this way, at least not from a literal sense. Yes, falls that result in injury (and even many that don’t) can cost you money, but it could cost you several other things as well. Falls can cost you your reputation. Falls can cost you your business. Falls can cost you the sense of safety and security your workforce has. Falls can cost you sleep. Some of these may seem self-evident to you, while others may leave you scratching your head, so let’s go through each.
If you’ve been in safety long enough – say about a month – you’ve already sat through at least one presentation on how much injuries cost. These presentations will talk to you about direct costs of work place injury (medical bills and salary) and indirect costs (re-training, personnel replacement, lost production, etc.) and how the indirect costs are estimated to be about 4x the direct costs. Let’s focus on the direct costs for now, because the impact of the indirect costs will be a bit more apparent in the following sections.
It’s hard to tell you exactly what dollar amount a fall will cost you because associated injuries can vary greatly. During a fall, your employee could get a laceration or turn an ankle. They could bump their head or break a bone. They could suffer injuries from an improperly worn harness or suspension trauma from hanging too long before being rescued. They could fall to their death.
The bottom line is, if your concern about the cost of a fall is only about the dollars, please stop employing human beings.
Anybody who has pride in their company understands that reputation is vital. A serious fall, or a series of less serious falls, could earn you a poor reputation among your clients, your peers, and your workforce. Being known as an unsafe company will impact your bottom line as clients begin to turn you away (especially so if you are being prequalified through a software system and your falls are driving up your incident rates or EMR). Employees will be concerned about their well-being, feeling that the schedule or budget have a higher priority than their lives. Where they have an option, they may choose not to work for you. And, if OSHA or your state’s governing body is being summoned to your sites, you’d better believe you now have a reputation with them as somebody that needs to have an eye kept on them. This could result in increased inspection frequency and penalties.
Yes, falls can cost you your business. This isn’t about the business your company can lose because your reputation has been affected, but rather your entire business. It was stated earlier that if the only reason you’re concerned about falls is how much money they will cost that maybe you shouldn’t be employing people, but that doesn’t mean money isn’t important. You are in business for one reason, to make money. By doing so you feed your family and the families of all the employees that work for you.
Falls, however, have the potential for catastrophic outcomes and something catastrophic enough could put any company out of business. If you’re a small business, this outcome is almost inevitable. Sure, you will be protected in no small amount by your Worker’s Compensation, but catastrophic events can lead to lawsuits brought on by third parties, depending on who was affected. Now bring in lost business, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, and OSHA penalties, and it could be difficult for your company to weather the storm.
Sense of Safety and Security
As a responsible employer, your workforce needs to trust that you have their best interest in mind. If somebody cuts themselves on a tool or pokes themselves in the eye because they weren’t wearing safety glasses, you’re not in danger of losing the confidence of your people. If you allow a fall to occur, especially a catastrophic one, that could all change.
This goes beyond losing your reputation as a good, safe employer among your workforce. It could cause you a drop in production. Some of the people in the field may not have the education or skillset to evaluate a situation for its hazards. They might not be able to look at an anchor point to determine if it is proper. To an extent, they are relying on you to keep them safe. If they don’t feel you will, how eager will they be to perform the tasks you assign them that don’t feel “right”? Perhaps they will work more slowly (not always the worst thing in the world). Perhaps those with enough knowledge, those who have been around a while, will refuse to do the tasks, delegating them to younger, newer members of the crew. This could cost you quality of work AND make the situation even more dangerous. If your employees trust you to protect them, that sense of security is invaluable.
You’re probably asking yourself how sleep comes into play. But, if you have got a conscience, then a catastrophic fall should make you lose sleep. Did somebody come to your jobsite to put food on the table for their family and not return home at the end of the day? Have you orphaned a child, widowed a spouse, or taken a child from a parent because you failed to do your part to protect them? Have you affected somebody’s ability to earn for the rest of their lives? If you find yourself recoiling at the use of you in all of those sentences, ask yourself whose responsibility protecting the workers ultimately is. Any serious injury, debilitation, or death of somebody under your care should and, if we’re being honest, most likely will cause you to lose sleep as you lie there wondering what you could have done differently.
Falls cost a lot of money, but the direct cost of an accident would most likely be the least of your worries. Trust, confidence, quality, and peace of mind could all be victims of a fall. Why wait until after a catastrophic incident to wonder what you could have done differently? You can take the same analytic approach to the work you are performing right now, before anyone has to pay the price.