That’s what I concluded after meeting with Gord Moker of Safe Saskatchewan.
I would to think that I’ve always supported safety in the work place and at home – who doesn’t?
But after learning more about Safe Saskatchewan and after hearing some statistics on accidents and injuries in Saskatchewan, I realized quickly that I should be paying closer attention.
Who is Safe Saskatchewan?
Safe Saskatchewan is a not-for-profit organization that aims to raise awareness regarding safety and the injuries that are being incurred by residents in Saskatchewan and to coordinate injury prevention initiatives in the province.
Why are you writing about this?
If people aren’t willing to give more thought to safety for personal reasons, then I think they should consider the business case.
As a business lawyer, I am interested in counselling my clients on how to help their businesses succeed. Sometimes that’s purely commercial as I churn out contracts – but other times it’s through advice on internal policies and procedures that can both help them comply with their statutory obligations, meet best practices and take decisions that increase their profitability and decrease their risks.
Safety measures and the costs of injuries are important to all businesses. With a greater focus on safety, businesses can help ensure more employees are healthy workers (healthy workers are better workers), businesses will be more productive and save money that would otherwise be lost on temporarily or permanently replacing or retraining injured workers, and with more resources and better workers more businesses will be better positioned to succeed.
According to Safe Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of preventable injury in Canada.
Safe Saskatchewan states on its website that:
“Every day in this province, 26 people are hospitalized, six suffer a permanent disability, and one or two people die from an unintentional injury.”
What’s more, the Ministry of Health released a report in May 2016 titled “Self-reported Injuries Causing Limitation of Normal Activities in Saskatchewan”.
You may have missed this report, but it is compelling. This report found that injuries were more common in Saskatchewan than in Canada as a whole, with one in five residents of Saskatchewan reporting activity limiting injuries in 2013-2014.
What’s worse, is that the rate of injuries in 2013-2014 was higher than it was in 2009-2010. So either we’re being more honest about reporting activity-limiting injuries, or people are getting injured much more over a span of just four short years.
So people are getting injured, you may say, so what?
What’s the real cost of these injuries?
In short, the cost is substantial.
According to the June 2015 report The Cost of Injury in Canada:
The total cost of injuries in 2010 was $1.1 billion including $605 million (54% or $576 per capita) in direct health care costs and $508 million (46% or $483 per capita) in indirect expenditures.
In the same year injuries left 2,292 permanently partially or totally disabled, led to 10,844 hospitalizations and prompted 110,312 emergency room visits.
With a 2010 population of 1,051,425 the death rate due to injury in 2010 was 66, approximately 9,953 potential years of life were lost per 100,000 people and injuries cost each resident $1,059.
(Source: Parachute. (2015). The Cost of Injury in Canada. Parachute: Toronto, ON)
In reviewing this report I noted that 25% of all reported injuries were due to falls. I expected motor vehicle accidents to be at the top, but no, falls were the top cause of injuries in Saskatchewan.
But even though falls created 25% of all injuries in Saskatchewan, they accounted for 29% of the total costs incurred.
That means that falls cost the Province of Saskatchewan $319,000,000.00 each year.
Think about that for a minute, if injuries from falls (which are by their nature preventable) were to be eliminated then:
$172,260,000.00 can be saved in direct costs (meaning all the goods and services used for the diagnosis, treatment, continuing care, rehabilitation, and terminal care of people experiencing a major illness or impairment), and
$146,740,000.00 can be saved in indirect costs (meaning the losses due to goods and services that are not produced as a result of the impairment).
And that’s just the savings from reducing injuries as a result of falls alone.
Ok, I’m close to veering into social policy development here. That’s not my intent. And yes, these statistics include all injuries, not just workplace injuries, so they include falls at home and falls to vulnerable persons such as seniors.
My point – and the point of Safe Saskatchewan – is that the cost of injuries at home and at work result in substantial costs that have to be incurred by government, taxpayers and our business communities across the province.
For businesses, an employee injured in a fall costs the employer significantly. It means the business could suffer short term work disruption, it would need to bring in a replacement worker and retaining him or her, all of which costs much more in time and resources than had that employee not had that fall.
So Safety Pays – Now What?
You could sign the Saskatchewan Health & Safety Leadership Charter. The purpose of the Charter is to shift how people view injuries and injury prevention, and to promote the continuous improvement of healthy and safe workplaces and communities.
You could also review how your business approaches health and safety in the workplace.
According to WorkSafe Sask offers the following suggestions for making your businesses workplace safer:
Implement a plan to identify workplace hazards and take action to prevent accidents and occupational illness.
Provide the information, training and education workers need to safely do their jobs. This includes proper orientation, information and training about specific machinery or substances, safety procedures and associated risks.
Train supervisors so they know and obey health & safety requirements and company health & safety policies, practices and procedures.
Check to make sure everyone is following workplace health and safety policies and procedures. If the rules are broken, take action to prevent it from happening again.
Establish an occupational health committee to help identify and control health & safety hazards and address health & safety issues raised by workers. Always consult and co-operate with the committee.
Have a system to report and investigate accidents and near misses. Information from investigations should be used to review and improve health and safety policies, practices and procedures.
Create plans to deal with emergencies, such as fires, explosions, major releases of hazardous materials, violent acts or natural hazards.
Provide appropriate medical and first aid equipment.
Provide personal protective equipment and make sure it is used properly.
Set up a process to identify and prevent harassment in the workplace.
Employers have numerous obligations under The Saskatchewan Employment Act, including:
ensuring the health, safety and welfare at work of all of the employer’s workers,
resolving health, safety and welfare concerns in a timely manner,
ensuring workers are not exposed to harassment,
ensuring workers are trained in all matters that are necessary to protect their health, safety and welfare,
ensuring that work at the place of employment is sufficiently and competently supervised;
ensuring that the activities of the employer’s workers at a place of employment do not negatively affect the health, safety or welfare at work of the employer, other workers or any self-employed person at the place of employment.
Making sure that your business meets its obligations both at law and according to the best available practices requires a regular review of your business, your workplace and your internal policies, systems and procedures.
And in addition to being the right thing to do, investing just a little more time and resources to improving the safety of your workplace and the health of your employees could end up saving your business significantly in the long term.