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We are at work on average 38 – 39 hours per week. In a happy work environment, our colleagues become our second family. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that your employees, who are your most significant assets, never become a financial liability. It starts with being aware of what injuries can occur in the workplace and creating a workspace that minimises the chances of these happening. As an employer, you also need to be practical and realise that despite your best intentions, accidents do befall even the most safety compliant businesses. Employer liability cover must be added to your Business insurance to ensure you are covered if an employee lays an injury claim against you. No one likes to think of the worst, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Here we explore some of the injuries that can occur even in a small business environment, and what you can do as an employer to reduce the instances:

  1. Slips and falls

According to the National Floor Safety Institute slips and falls are the most common work injury incidents. Slips and falls can result in injuries like fractures or sprains of the knee, ankles or wrists. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, slips, trips, and falls account for 15% of all accidental deaths.

How to reduce a slip and fall injury:

  • Educate employees to be mindful of spilling liquids. The most common areas for spillage is the office kitchen area or tea area. Have cleaning items readily available so that if that coffee mug is knocked over, it can mopped up quickly
  • Be mindful of the type of flooring you lay in your office. Tiled and laminate flooring can become treacherous if damp. So, if the floor has been mopped, invest in a ‘wet-floor warning’ sandwich board sign to alert your employees to be cautious
  • Ensure that items like carpets aren’t folding up in the corners and that wires and cords are neatly secured against the walls
  • Is your office adequately lit? Dim lighting can make it harder to spot items underfoot
  • Have a chat with your employees about the type of shoes they wear to work. A shoe with quality traction is preferable. Moreover, for the ladies – there are high heels, and then there are very high heels! Encourage sensible, safe choices
  1. Mental fatigue

Impaired judgment can come about due to employees over-exerting themselves. It can be due to a large workload or a combination of work and personal stress. When stressed, quality sleep is often compromised – less than 5 hours of sleep or staying awake for over 16 hours isn’t that different from being inebriated.

Depending on the industry you operate in, a lack of clear judgment can result in severe injuries when operating machinery or driving. It becomes obvious why Liability cover that includes Employer liability cover is imperative in the case of injury.

How to employ fatigue management strategies:

  • Try to keep your employees’ work tasks interesting to alleviate boredom
  • Where possible, keep the need for overtime to a minimum. This can include managing your clients’ deadline expectations
  • In the hot summer months, look at installing air-conditioners so that the office temperature is comfortable
  • Encourage your employees to exercise for both health and de-stressing reasons
  • Advise your employees, where possible, to get at 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night
  • Don’t begrudge your employees’ lunchtime break. Encourage them to take that time to eat well and relax. It’ll refuel them, resulting in heightened productivity
  • Exude a management style that makes you approachable. That way, if an employee is going through a tough time, they will communicate their situation to you
  1. Lifting heavy objects

Knowing when to say no to lifting heavy objects is something that eludes many of us. Most people are quick to assist if asked. Many of us only discover afterward that the item was too heavy, and the action results in an injury to the back or a pulled muscle.

How to reduce workplace-lifting injuries:

  • Encourage your employees to ask for help if a heavy item arrives. Many hands make light(er) work!
  • Teach your employees the right way to lift. They should bend their hips and knees to squat down towards the item. It should be kept close to their body while they straighten their legs to lift
  • A heavy object should never be lifted above shoulder height
  • Twisting or turning should be avoided while holding a heavy item
  1. Repetitive motion injuries

You’re sitting at a desk. You’re typing up a client strategy. What could go wrong? It seems that workplace injuries really can happen anywhere. Sitting at a desk can result in back pain, and it has been estimated that 75 – 90 percent of computer users suffer from digital eye strain. Carpel tunnel syndrome, which is a painful condition of the hands and fingers, has been linked to the repetitive action of typing.

How to reduce repetitive motion injury:

– Educate your employees to take ‘micro’ breaks when typing. They should take a 30 to 60-second break for every 10 minutes of computer use

– Good posture is imperative. Employees should aim to sit with a straight back and fully supported by their chair. The computer monitor should be at eye level and the keyboard at elbow height

– You could even introduce stress balls as a way to exercise fingers and wrists

– You could introduce Ergonomic keyboards that are designed to support the natural shape of the hand

  1. Motor vehicle accidents

If your business requires your employees to drive company vehicles, then in addition to Employers Liability cover, you will need Business vehicle insurance. Business vehicle use can mean significant time on the road for employees. If things go wrong, this could result in both a Liability insurance and a Business vehicle insurance claim. The first priority is to avoid anything going wrong at all.

How to reduce motor vehicle accidents:

  • It may seem obvious, but make sure that your employees have a valid driver’s license
  • Be sure not to overwork an employee to the point of excessive fatigue. A fatigued employee may be less responsive to emergencies on the road
  • Make sure that your company car is road-worthy and has safety features like airbags installed. You should be vigilant about car service, and make sure they are up to date
  • Consider sending your employee/s on an Advanced Drivers Course

As the saying goes: “prevention is better than cure”. Be aware of workplace dangers and ensure that the environment you create for your employees is a safe one. Educate your employees as to your company procedures should accidents occur and have Employer liability cover in place to protect your business if they do. It is also essential to familiarise yourself with employer obligations regarding Occupational Health and Safety (OHSACT), which was established for the protection of employees in the work environment, as well as the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA). Be in a place to protect both your employees and your business by exploring your Liability insurance options at businessinsurance.co.za.

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