Thursday, January 22, 2009

Is our economy causing more workplace injuries?

After three years of decline, the number of workplace deaths in North Carolina rose by 31 percent in 2008 and officials are putting part of the blame on our country’s weakening economy.

Last year there were 59 work-related deaths, up from 45 in 2007, according to preliminary data from the North Carolina Department of Labor reported in the Charlotte Observer.

Labor officials are worried that the slowing economy is causing more companies to cut corners on safety and is creating more dangerous workplaces.

The NC Labor Department spokeswoman Delores Quesenberry said that when tough economic times hit businesses, company training and other safety initiatives are among the first to be cut from the budget.

“That's one of the first messages we want to get to employers: Make sure your employees are trained. It's not worth a life,” said Quesenberry.

A recent workplace survey is validating the NC officials’ worries, and showing that skimping on safety training is a national problem.

A December survey of 300 mechanical, electrical, facilities, utilities and plumbing (MEP) professionals indicates a negligent attitude toward training among MEP employers, according to MEP Jobs.

According to survey respondents:

  • 45% said their employer did not have a budget for training
  • 15% said their company’s training budget is going down in 2009
  • 55% had to fund their last professional certification training and testing costs on their own
  • More than 25% either couldn’t remember or hadn’t been trained yet in a work-related safety procedure or process

Workplace safety training is not a luxury - it’s a necessity. With proper training, employees are equipped with the tools to make the right decision in potentially life-threatening situations.

When the economy takes a hit, workplace safety training becomes critical for one main reason: companies hire younger and more inexperienced employees due to the scarcity of skilled workers and to save on payroll. Combining inexperienced workers with a lack of training can lead to disastrous consequences and expensive OSHA fines.

No matter how you work the numbers, the cost-savings you find in cutting back on safety will never compare to the value lost when an employee is injured on the job.

How’s the safety training situation at your workplace? Is the economy forcing your business to cut corners and put employees in danger?

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