Workplace accidents are something that businesses across the UK work to prevent, avoid or otherwise mitigate; there are strong legal frameworks businesses are required to abide to for the sake of worker safety, and many go above and beyond to ensure their staff are kept safe. However, accidents are near-inevitable – and, despite those stringent laws, over 500.000 workers experienced injury in the workplace in 2021-22. During the same time period, 123 workers were unfortunate enough to lose their lives – 0.02% of total workplace accidents.
Workplace accidents rarely end in fatality, but can still have profound impacts for both the injured party and the business. It’s estimated that the cost of non-fatal work injuries surpasses the 7.5 billion pounds. Injured workers lose valuable time to recovery, and risk permanent changes in the event of injury; businesses contend with money, reputation and productivity. What follows are some of the hidden costs a business faces when an accident occurs in the workplace.
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One of the key hidden costs that a workplace injury can bring about is not a directly calculable or monetary one, though its impacts can be felt quite significantly when it comes to money. With a serious workplace accident, one or more workers will be effectively removed from the workforce – either until they recover, or permanently due to the nature of their injuries. Even if workers return to work, it’s possible that they are unable to perform at the same level as they did before the accident. In the short term, this creates a shortfall in available ‘manpower’, decreasing operational capacity and resulting in reduced output.
Not only is productivity wicked from your team or department, but additional operational power is required to address the ancillary aspects of managing a workplace accident. Reports need to be filed, HR processes need to begin, and, as we well come to shortly, civil action may need to be addressed.
All of this can serve to add up across a business, with more than one department devoting time and energy to managing the outcomes of an accident. This is to say nothing of the considerable administration that may be required in the examination and overhaul of health and safety policies, should gaps in safety infrastructure have led to the accident.
This is perhaps the least hidden of costs when it comes to a workplace accident, but is by no means an obvious or easily-calculable cost outside of an accident having occurred. In many cases, the business may be liable for the accident and injury in question, with the injured party well within rights to pursue compensation via civil action. This can cost in more than one way, though. Not only is there the cost of potential settlement or compensation to consider, but also the cost of legal counsel and additional administration on the part of HR.
Hiring and Training
Workplace injuries can have lasting workforce impacts, particularly where the injury was serious enough to constitute either extended time away from work or a complete departure from the role in question. This leaves a large gap in the business’ operations, which will need to be filled either by temporary staff or new recruits.
The cost of hiring staff is well-documented at this point, with staff turnover being one of the more costly elements to running a new business. Not only are there costs associated with recruitment and marketing, but also with onboarding and training – followed by some months of reduced capacity as mentioned earlier.
If employees do return to work after an accident, they might also need additional training to keep up with any new company processes or regulations. This additional training will also translate into additional training costs for the company.
All of the above can have long-term consequences for an enterprise’s business, specifically with regard to client base. Whether a workplace incident requires a wholesale shutdown of operation, or an individual account or project is slowed by virtue of an assigned employee being removed from work, the results can be heavily impactful on the business’ product. This may well lead to the loss of longer-term contracts as a result.
Depending on the case, the overall company’s reputation could be at risk. If the accident in question receives enough media attention, the public may perceive the company as socially irresponsible towards their employees’ safety and wellbeing; in the worst-case scenario, this will translate into decreased customer satisfaction and revenue loss.
Workplace accidents can be devastating for both employers and employees. They can cause disruption in many different areas, such as productivity, administration, financial matters, hiring and training or even client relations. Employers should always prioritise employee safety and take all the necessary steps to prevent workplace accidents, minimising these hidden costs.