Study Links Increase in Workplace Injury and Death to Increased Workplace Pressure

Deaths from workplace injuries appear to be on the rise, according to a late 2016 release from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2015, the last released date for such statistics, 4,836 fatal work injuries were recorded, which was the highest number since 2008 and higher than the prior years. Both workers and employers alike need to understand what is contributing to these deaths, so that they can take measures to keep their workplaces and workers safe.

Workplace Pressure Increase Risk for Injury or Death

In a recent study published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, researchers found a correlation between workplace deaths and other serious injuries with pressures to meet earnings expectations. It appears from the study that the more pressure is placed on a workplace, the greater the chances are that there will be a serious issue involving workers as a result due to overlooked workplace safety.

In the study, researchers looked at over 860 firms in a variety of industries, focusing on companies that met or barely beat their earnings expectations. The researchers found that those firms had a much higher rate of workplace safety incidents, with rates 5 to 15% higher than those firms that completely miss or clearly beat their forecasted earnings. Several reasons and risk factors were also found that contributed to this statistic.

High Workload Leads to Less Safety

One reason for this increased risk is the high workload placed on workers during those times when they are pushing to meet a goal. When workers are asked to work longer or harder, they get tired. Tired, overexerted workers are more likely to ignore safety protocols, because safety protocols take time away from what they’re trying to accomplish. This can make the risk of workplace death higher.

Managers More Likely to overlook Safety Measures

In addition, when trying to meet a benchmark, managers may be more likely to overlook safety protocols to help save money and time. For example, they may not perform maintenance on large equipment because of the cost involved, or they may skip critical employee training in an effort to get employees on the floor more quickly. All of this adds up to an increased risk for serious injury.

Additional Factors Contribute to Higher Workplace Injury Statistics

In addition to these two major factors, the study found some additional factors that could lead to high risk for workplace injury. One of those factors was a lack of union. Unions help fight for safety for workers, and in firms that didn’t have a unionized workforce, the risk of death was higher.

Low workers compensation insurance premiums also contributed to the risk. The higher the cost for workers’ compensation, the better attention the firms paid to keeping workers safe. In fact, high workers’ compensation premiums reduced the risk of injury by 5% on average.

What does this mean for the worker or manager? It means that those times when pressure is high to perform well are times when workers and managers need to be more vigilant about protecting their workplace, not less. These are times when workplace death is a very high risk, so these are times when safety protocols must be strictly enforced. Managers also need to be aware of the costs of overlooking safety protocols, which can include fines from OSHA, increased workers’ compensation premiums and, of course, lost time and productivity when workers are injured or killed. With better attention to safety, even in these challenging times, companies can keep their most important assets, their workforces, safer.