Taking care of workers: A cost of doing business

It’s important to remember that laboring - or being on the job - can be hazardous, and that many American workers are injured or killed on the job each year. I want our client companies and other businesses and industries in the community to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of the workforce running our region, state and country.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the year 2006 alone, there were 5,840 workers who lost their lives and all their tomorrows from on-the-job injuries. In addition, an estimated 49,000 annual deaths were attributed to work-related diseases. If this wasn’t depressing enough, the CDC estimates that 4.1 million private sector workers had non-fatal work-related injuries or illnesses, with an estimated 50 percent of these injured workers requiring a job transfer, work restriction or time away from the job. There also were an estimated 3.4 million workers treated in hospital emergency departments because of occupational injuries, and of those, 80,000 had to be admitted.

If that’s not enough to get your attention, how about an estimated $89 billion in workers compensation costs for the employers. I am sure that each of our client companies collect, analyze and trend their data, practice quality and process improvements - while also monitoring statistics on workers compensation costs and lost productivity to the bottom line. I hope that this type of information is shared with employees - whether stockholders or not. I also hope our employers stress the importance of a drug-free workplace and that “Safety is Job No. 1.”

In working with our client companies, I am very impressed with the safety records, processes and procedures, plant cleanliness, the attention that’s paid to the work environment, the monitoring programs and the surveys conducted. We at Blount Memorial Business Health understand the impact even one work-related injury can have on the worker and the company, and we applaud any and all efforts aimed at workers’ safety, and extol companies not to let the guard down - especially in these volatile economic times.

We have seen that, as work environments become safer, the number of workers’ compensation claims continues to decline, but the cost per claim has risen 27 percent in the last four years and can add an estimated 2 percent cost per hour worked. Rising workers’ compensation costs are primarily due to increased use of benefits and longer durations of disability.

Because we know that the amount of time an employee spends on disability adds up, through Business Health, we can partner with client companies to implement programs that bring workers back into the workforce at a faster rate, even if it means bringing them back in a limited capacity.

We do on-site tours of company facilities and always are standing by to do on-site consultations. Put Business Health to work for your company by learning about programs and services that keep workers healthy and on-the-job. For more information or to schedule an initial cost-free assessment of your company’s needs, call 865-977-5795.

Dr. Daniel Callan is a board-certified occupational medicine physician with Blount Memorial Business Health and the Blount Memorial Occupational Health Centers at Springbrook and Tellico West. Additional board certifications focus on environmental medicine, aerospace medicine and family medicine.

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