The National Safety Council in Injury Facts provides some insight into why off-the job safety is a topic that should receive some attention when occupational safety and health (OSH) is addressed. For instance, over 50% of the accidents that keep employees off the job occur away from work. Employers spend in excess of $500 per employee to cover health care costs for employees and their families for off-the-job accidents/incidents. Also, motor vehicles are the leading cause of death, and this is especially true for teens and younger individuals. Over 15 million individuals suffer temporary or permanent disability injuries from off-the-job injuries each year. Accidents are the leading cause of death in those below the age of 65. The facts help set the stage as to why off-the-job safety is a topic that deserves attention.
It might be wondered why employers would bother themselves with safety off the job. There is still cost to the employer when accidents to the workers or their families occur during time away from the workplace. The aftermath of an off-the-job event can be disruptive to the family unit in many ways. These include stress to the family unit as well as absences from the workplace during and after a family incident, even if it not the worker personally.
It is difficult for an employer to mandate a value of safety and health when an employee and his/her family are not in the workplace. Encouraging employees and their families to place a value on both safety and health away from the workplace is often a difficult sale to employees, who feel that their private time is none of the employer's business.
Off-the-job incidents can cost the family physically as well as damage their personal property such as homes, automobiles, boats, motorcycles, etc. Incidents may disrupt the normal functioning of the family if the employee or spouse is disabled. The loss of a second income or the need for childcare may place a financial burden in such events. If a child is disabled, a parent may need to stay with him/her. This again may place a financial burden on the family unit.
The difficulties faced by an employer may be potential increases in premiums for family medical insurance, loss of a productive employee, and loss of production when using a temporary employee. When an employee suffers an off-the-job injury or health issue, very often, it is disabling.
The types of accidents suffered off the job are often similar to those that occur in the workplace. Employees often suffer injuries during risky or dangerous hobbies, pleasure, or sport activities. Most often, they are the types of hazards found in the workplace, such as the following:
- • Automobile accidents
- • Fires and burns
- • Motorized vehicles such as ATVs, boats, motorcycles, lawn tractors, etc.
- • Bicycles
- • Slips, trips, or falls
- • Falls from elevated surfaces such as roofs and ladders
- • Lawn mowing and trimming equipment
- • Power and hand tools
- • Poisoning
- • Hazardous chemicals
- • Drowning
- • Firearms
Companies may want to develop safety and health materials to distribute as paycheck stuffers that are seasonally related, such as safe skiing tips in winter or reminders on flu shots during flu season. More extensive programs may be implemented for disease prevention emphasizing vaccinations, hygiene practices, healthy eating habits, and prevention planning.
Since automobile accidents transpire often, the company may offer a safe driving course for the family or especially oriented toward teen drivers since they are most often the least experienced members of the family.
Also, information on emergency planning, evacuation, emergency numbers, and first aid might be provided. Companies might distribute packages for emergency procedures or first-aid kits.
These items can be developed as the company develops a prevention approach and plan for off-the-job safety. This is why an off-the-job safety and health plan needs to be developed that counts the number and types of off-the-job injuries and illnesses the workforce is experiencing, and the medical cost and indirect cost (lost wages, cost other than medical, etc.) of such injuries and illnesses. Emphasis on prevention should be placed upon frequent and severe occurrences. Special materials should be developed by the company to assist employees and their families in preventing these types of incidents. Track the gains toward goals of prevention and cost savings to the employer and employees.
Goetsch, D.L. Occupational Safety and Health for Technologists, Engineers and Managers (Fifth Edition).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
Kohn, J.P. and T.S. Ferry. Safety and Health Management Planning. Rockville, MD: Government Institutes, 1999.
Lack, R.W. Safety, Health, and Asset Protection: Management Essential (Second Edition). Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, 2002.