You may have heard the term “work-life” balance floating around everywhere today, but this might be the first time you’ve heard the term associated a safer workplace. It’s not a new concept, but it has become a growing concern as employers demand more from their employees translating into the employee spending less time with their family and on their health.

Studies have shown that being over worked, out of shape and alienated from your loved-ones can lead to burnout, expensive healthcare costs, and an early death. Previous studies performed by the Department of Labor Statistics, found Caucasians are more prone to injury in the workplace than African Americans, however, Hispanics seemed to display the highest rate of on-the-job injury. Now a new study has shown that worker satisfaction at home has a real effect on how safe they are at work.

This, along with strong management support and a “safety culture” in the workplace, the study says, has a huge effect on how often a worker gets injured in the workplace. This directly translates to the overall cost of workers compensation insurance for both Washington State and around the country.

Workplace Safety

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 6000 workers are killed each year in the United States. This is attributed to a myriad of reasons, however, researchers at the University of Georgia study suggest that one of the major contributing factors to this statistic is the “culture of the workplace” in reducing or increasing risk of injury.

Led by study author Dave DeJoy, Ph.D., the research team used data from the quality of work life module to assess the occupational injury risk for 1,525 respondents in terms of socio-demographic factors, employment characteristics and organizational factors. And published the results in the March issue of theJournal of Safety Research.

The authors pointed out that most prior research on organizational factors has focused on single occupations or single organizations. They feel that there has been a clear need to examine these factors across a diverse array of occupations and employment circumstances to see how generalizable or pervasive these factors are.

The nine factors they examined were:

  • Participation
  • Work-family interference
  • Management-employee relations
  • Organizational effectiveness
  • Safety climate
  • Job content
  • Advancement potential
  • Resource adequacy
  • Supervisor support

They focused a keen eye on the mutual interference between job and family demands. In situations where work interferes with family life or family demands affect job performance, they found that the risk for injury increased a whopping 37%.

We’ve known for some time that certain occupations are more dangerous than others due to a variety of physical and other hazards,” said DeJoy. “But in the last 20 years, there has been growing evidence that management and organizational factors also play a critical role. That is, actions taken or not taken at the organizational level can either set the stage for injuries or help prevent them.”

They then examined the respondent’s perceptions U.S. safety climate. The participants in the study had very diverse work environment backgrounds and occupations from offices to factories in order to highlight the factors linked to injury. Investigators discovered that well-managed companies can decrease injuries by 38% as worker opinions improve.

We can design the best safety controls, but they must be maintained, and that falls on management,” the authors said.

The researchers asked the respondents questions pertaining to the workers’ perceptions of the safety climate and the importance of their safety held by the management and the organization as a whole. They found that when a worker’s perception of their workplace was positive, their chances of injury decrease by 32%.

We used to think work was one thing and family was another, but now there is a realization that work-life balance affects performance and productivity,” DeJoy said.

Safety Culture

We have written about the safety culture when pertaining to a Traffic Safety Culture, however, that concept has stretched into the workplace. These are essentially organizational policies and procedures that establish a daily awareness of safety issues. They aren’t formalized ones, but an attitude by managers and the organization to create a climate of safety. Researchers found that the work culture including policies and procedures that applied to day-to-day operations were factors that define a safe environment.

Injury is a failure of management,” DeJoy believes. “Organizations who blame individuals for injuries do not create a positive safety climate.” In addition to factors identified by the study to decrease injuries, work-family interference was established as a significant risk for occupational injury. “These results provide guidance for targeting interventions and protective measures to curtail occupational injury in the U.S.,” said co-author Todd Smith, a recent graduate of the Health Promotion and Behavior doctoral program at UGA.“The data suggests effects are pronounced and generalized across all occupations.”

Workers Compensation Attorney

Phillips Law Firmr has a team of legal professionals dedicated to seeking just compensation for workers injured on the job. Our workers compensation attorneys will look at your case for free and give you options on what you need to do to move forward. Call Phillips Law Firm now for a free consultation.