food processing employee safety

3 Important Reasons to Focus on Employee Safety

June is National Safety Month — a month set aside to focus on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities, with the ultimate goal that No One Gets Hurt.

What better time to focus on improving safety in your food processing plant?

Employee safety is an important part of any food processing facility — one that should never be “set it and forget it.” Taking time to review employee safety training, procedures, and response time should happen on an annual basis to help reduce the risk of employee injuries.

Why focus on employee safety this month? Here are three great reasons.

Leading the Way in Employee Injuries

A study published in the July 2015 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine confirms that workers involved in the modern food industry are at higher risk of injury and death than those in other industries.

The researchers used a “farm-to-table” model that considered five major industry “pathways and processes”: food production, processing, distribution, storage, and retail. The study’s findings may help in targeting specific workplace hazards across the industry, reports Kira L. Newman, BA, of Emory University and her colleagues. They analyzed BLS occupational morbidity and mortality data in food-related industries from 2008 to 2010. Overall, food industry workers had 60 percent higher rate of occupational illness and injury than workers in non-food industries and a lost-time injury rate more than twice as high.1

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The following charts, complied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, presents data for the industry on the number of workplace fatalities and the rates of workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers in food manufacturing. An injury or illness is considered to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.2

Employee Injuries Cost Billions

Workplace injuries and illnesses have a major impact on an employer’s bottom line. According to OSHA, it has been estimated that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs alone.

Those aren’t the only costs employers incur when an employee is injured. There are a number of direct and indirect costs associated with an employee injury.

Direct costs include:

  • Worker’s compensation payments
  • Medical expenses
  • Legal services

Indirect costs include:

  • Training replacement employees
  • Accident investigation
  • Implementation of corrective measures
  • Lost productivity
  • Repairs of damaged equipment and property
  • Costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism
  • Increased insurance premiums

Even one injury has a drastic impact on a company’s bottom line.

Safe Employees are Happy Employees

Dr. Robert McLellan, author of a May 2015 paper on the value of healthy workers, found that a company’s value can be directly tied to the health of the workforce and that by investing in employees – including safety programs – costs will decrease.

A worker’s satisfaction is related to how safe they feel on the job, whether safety is related to the task itself, and the interactions they have with other workers or customers. Gallup research has consistently shown a link between a worker’s feelings of safety and security in the workplace and morale.3

The safer an employee feels on the job, the better they feel about the job — and the better they feel about their job, the more likely they are to remain.

Improving safety in your facility is just one way to reduce the costs associated with employee turnover:

  • Recruitment costs
  • Time taken to interview and acquire employees
  • Training new employees
  • Costs associated with lower production due to lack of workforce and training

Safe employees are happy employees, and happy employees produce more.

Invest in Safety

Throughout this month, we will be highlighting various aspects of employee safety, and sharing tips and advice to improve safety in your food processing facility.

A small investment in employee safety — whether through employee training or the purchase of safety equipment and guarding — reduces the risk of paying the direct and indirect costs of employee injury.

Take this month to review your safety training and procedures, and invest in your employees’ safety.