Little problems often become big problems if no one takes the initiative to correct them. If your employees don’t bother to report a malfunctioning machine or a slip-and-fall hazard, serious injuries could occur – injuries that could have been preventable. Although the severity of consequences for failing to report a hazard varies, ignoring any hazard can be detrimental to your business and the safety of your employees.
Bandages and Ambulances
Every year, employees die or are hurt at work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that 4,383 workers died as a result of work injuries in 2012. Some accidents are unavoidable, but others could have been prevented if only the problem had been reported.
Underreporting can occur if employees feel that they don’t have the authority to report hazards, particularly if they occur in other areas or departments; if they think that someone else will notice the problem; or if they fear retaliation for reporting a hazard.
See You in Court
Lawsuits are an unfortunate reality when workplace hazards cause injuries or deaths. Even if your company wins a lawsuit, the costs associated with defending the suit can be steep. A loss can mean that the company must pay thousands or millions of dollars to employees, their families or other affected parties, which can be particularly devastating to small or struggling companies.
Lawsuits also bring unwanted negative publicity and can damage your company’s reputation, which might affect sales or profits.
When an accident or injury occurs, productivity can suffer. Obviously, the injured employee might be unable to work for days or weeks, but productivity in the entire company also can be affected. If the hazard involves a malfunctioning machine, the machine must be shut down, inspected and repaired or replaced.
Your company also might need to shut down and inspect similar machines to ensure that the same defect doesn’t affect them as well. While the machines are shut down, no one can work. If the shutdown is lengthy, production delays can occur and it might even be necessary to furlough workers.
In some cases, unreported workplace hazards not only affect your company but your community. For example, if your warehouse or manufacturing plant explodes due to a gas leak, the resulting fire might spread to other businesses or homes, which can result in increased costs and liability for your company.
If gas, oil or chemicals leak into the soil and contaminate the groundwater, you might face an expensive cleanup and a blemished reputation in your community. Failure to report and repair a hazard also can result in other expenses, particularly your company if fined by OSHA or other regulatory agencies.