Workplace Safety & The New Normal | JGS Insurance 

Workplace Safety & The New Normal

By Eric Wokas, Senior Risk Engineer  

According to a recent study from the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly 90% of businesses are having difficulty filling open positions. Reasons vary; however, there are many workers reevaluating their employment priorities and others that are concerned about their health due to unpredictable COVID exposures. These concerns are especially prevalent among those who have careers that require them to work in close contact with others or within enclosed spaces.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the manufacturing sector is currently posting over 800,000 job openings. To address this shortfall, some employers have reduced their job requirements relating to criminal history, legal marijuana usage, and previous work experience in order to expand their candidate reach. In addition, some employers have increased workers’ hours.

The American Trucking Association reports a driver shortage of more than 80,000 positions. This is largely driven by an aging workforce, declining interest in the profession, and strict regulatory requirements. To make up for the shortfall, employers are extending existing employees’ driving schedules and lowering their driver applicant standards.

However, these approaches have consequences. Industry data shows that manufacturing employees with less than a year of job experience contribute to over 35% of workplace accidents.

An understaffed workplace means the remaining employees may need to pick up extra shifts, work longer hours, and end their days in exhaustion. A recent survey found that 60% of manufacturing workers have reported added stress and muscular pain or discomfort due to being overworked.

Hiring untrained employees or temporary workers and extending overtime to keep production moving can lead to an increase in workers’ compensation claims.

Exhausted and underqualified workers can increase the risk of employees cutting safety corners or making careless errors during their daily tasks, potentially resulting in workplace accidents. These accidents could harm or injure both employees and customers. Overworked and inexperienced employees may also be more likely to miss important project deadlines and cause service delays, contributing to disgruntled customers. Additionally, staff shortages can make it more difficult for employers to maintain adequate workplace security, making them more vulnerable to property and inventory losses.

To recruit and retain employees, businesses can offer incentives. Many companies are increasing wages, providing additional benefits, offering bonuses for a job well done, offering free COVID vaccinations, and adjusting schedules to adapt to employee needs.

There are more measures an employer can take that require little investment and will provide lasting returns not only in profitability but in goodwill:

  1. Ensure effective onboarding processes.

While an effective onboarding process is always a plus, this is especially true if labor shortages require employers to hire inexperienced workers. Employers must equip new employees with the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in their roles. This involves onboarding that emphasizes the physical requirements of the job, hazard recognition, and providing related safety training.

  1. Provide routine training.

Employers should have all workers, regardless of experience, participate in regular, job-specific safety training. Training promotes your safety culture and mitigates the risk of workplace accidents.

  1. Schedule regular check-ins.

It’s vital for employers to engage with their workers on a frequent basis. Keeping regular communication open will motivate employees to share any safety concerns and other work-related issues. Perform daily safety inspections that include identifying unsafe conditions and promoting safe working behaviors such as wearing appropriate PPE. By being proactive, employers can remedy problems before they cause an incident.

Regardless of when the pandemic subsides, many economists anticipate labor shortages to continue throughout 2022 and beyond. New demands are placed on employers as workers have permanently altered their job expectations and workplace priorities. Employers who adapt to the new normal by implementing workplace programs that enhance the safety and well-being of their workers will earn an edge in successfully hiring that elusive employee.

For more guidance on how to utilize these strategies, contact us today.