Workers in heavy industry are exposed to all manner of safety risks, including those associated with chemicals, noise, temperature, radiation and diseases – not to mention hazards emerging from new technologies that are constantly changing.
With so many factors to take into account – from changing demographics to evolving machinery – workplace hygiene has never been more important.
Here are just six benefits to reducing risk in the work environment:
Investing in industrial hygiene now can save valuable resources and money in provincial healthcare costs later down the road, according to a recent article on Pub Med Central Canada.
"These injuries have the highest potential of resulting in both short-term and long-term disability, and are among the most costly of all injuries from an economic perspective," stated the author.
Insurance premium rates, the volume of injury claims and company healthcare package offerings are all affected by occupational hygiene. By setting high standards, industry can reduce risks and improve conditions in the workplace – and, in turn, benefit in the long run.
The prevalence of occupational health complications is undeniable. According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, absenteeism in Canada has increased steadily since the 1990s. In B.C., actual work time lost for personal reasons was 8.5 days per employee in 2005 -- and the lost productivity that goes along with it is a major business cost.
Industries can reduce the number of workers forced to leave their jobs due to injury or illness by making hygiene a top priority.
Having employees off the job could lead to a halt in production and the need to allocate additional resources to hiring, training and monitoring replacements.
Absenteeism and tardiness can also be lessened for operations with healthy employees. Obligations that come with injury and illness – including rehabilitation, specialist appointments, treatments and procedures – can take a person’s time and focus away from his or her job.
The success of a company starts with its workers, which is why it is crucial to provide the tools they require for a high-quality job performance. People who have a supportive supervisor, flexible workplaces, a safe environment and low job stress report greater work-life balance, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health.
Occupational hygiene helps keep employees physically and mentally healthy, allowing them the energy and resources to focus on the task at hand. On top of physical discomfort, health complications can trigger numerous other distractions – such as stress, fatigue, inattentiveness and anxiety – making it difficult for a worker to be effective in the workplace. Eliminating those stressors allows for a more focused and reliable employee.
Healthy employees can also have longer life expectancies, and may mean they are able to work longer. Rather than absorbing the costs of having a high turnover rate – such as retraining expenses and the need to supervise new workers with less experience – it is more beneficial to invest in long-term employees who can increase productivity over time.
Health and safety in the workplace is one of the primary priorities for employers. Alongside boosting morale and reducing absenteeism, a healthy and safe workplace is likely to improve productivity.
Implementing high safety standards will also lead to employees having better training in occupational hazards. Such employees will be able to confidently identify and report risks in the workplace, and, as a result, prevent future injuries. Having workers play a part in overall workplace hygiene is a productive way to ensure dangerous situations don’t get overlooked or slip through the cracks.
Industries with high hygiene standards can put the money they save from workplace injuries and illnesses towards organizational improvement and growth.
Rather than throwing money at preventable situations, companies can take pro-active measures that benefit their bottom line.
A company that not only recognizes, but highly values occupational hygiene is going to be one that is more highly regarded by employees and the public alike.
Having the reputation as a safe and hygienic workplace is appealing to potential workers seeking employment with a respectable and professional organization. That sort of distinction has the power to attract a large number of diverse applicants, allowing companies to be more selective during the hiring process.
The credibility that comes with keeping a safe work environment can also lead to a good-standing with investors, clients and partners.
Let's face it -- Image can make or break a business, and associating one’s organization with best practices is the first step in creating an honourable impression.
An industry that values and follows through with occupational hygiene methods can save in more ways than just financially.
The bottom line is that having healthy employees helps boost productivity, morale and efficiency. That, combined, with a safe and professional reputation can be what sets a company well above others in its field.
Craig Yee is an Industrial Hygienist and Principal of OHS Global Risk Solutions. He earned his Masters Degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene at the University of British Columbia. He has over 12 years of direct experience in the hygiene, health and safety industry in both public and private sectors. You can connect with him on Google+.