And to make matters worse, newly hired employees are significantly more likely to experience a work-related injury within the first months of employment. A review of federal accident data showed that employees in their first year on the job account for 40% of all workplace injuries, and half of that 40% occurred within the first 90 days on the job. (2)
In another study of 3752 employees, 31.2% terminated their employment before the first 2 months on the job. The risk of early resignation was significantly greater among those who had visited the occupational health clinic to address a work-related injury during those first 60 days. (3)
With 14 workplace injuries happening every second, you can bet that workplace injuries impact turnover. (4)
It's not just injuries that create an early exit. In a study published in 2020 involving 2351 employees, heavy physical requirements such as awkward body postures, heavy lifting, and high work pace were associated with an early exit. (5) People who have never done physically demanding work or have not done it in a while get easily overwhelmed with heavy lifting and highly repetitive work. The exit strategy is often not showing up for work the next day. One of our clients related the story of a delivery driver who abandoned his entire loaded truck in a parking lot rather than complete the rest of the workday!
According to the Department of Labor, turnover is expensive, adding up to about a third of the replaced worker's annual salary in lost productivity, recruiting, retention, and replacement costs. Suppose the turnover is due to a lost-time injury. In that case, the company is incurring an additional $40K in direct injury costs and (according to OSHA) another $44K in indirect costs for a total injury cost of $84,000.
Take the average warehouse worker earning $28,500. Based on the above figures:
Once the other sales to cover the turnover costs have been added, the actual price of that lost time injury + turnover will equal an astounding $3M! That's the actual cost of injuries and turnover.
So, what can you do?
A logical first step for preventing injuries is hiring individuals capable of performing the physical requirements of the work. Pre-employment Physical Abilities Testing addresses two birds with one approach – not only are employees capable of performing the work less likely to be injured, but they are also less likely to depart early from their jobs. The current severe workforce shortage, however, makes eliminating job candidates for any reason difficult. Not to mention that recruiters are incentivized on the number of positions filled or the time required to fill positions (shorter being better). So, employers today are hiring just about anyone they can find.
But is this the way to hire? Let's look at some more numbers.
Without pre-hire Physical Abilities Testing, you can assume that approximately 10% (10) of those you hire will experience a lost time injury. If you hire 100 warehouse workers and each lost time strain or sprain requires the company to increase sales by $3M, suddenly, sales must be increased by $30M to make up for those bad hires. Did the company gain $30M worth of business by making those 10 bad hires? Only you and your organization can answer that…but, likely, the math does not add up.
If you're not convinced to do physical abilities testing to select applicants, consider using Physical Abilities Testing post-hire for placement. If you have jobs of varying levels of physical difficulty, you can use a test with multiple passing criteria and place people according to the level at which they passed.
Whether selecting or placing applicants or reducing the physical stress associated with your jobs makes sense. An ergonomic assessment, at least for the jobs creating most of the injuries, can help identify and quantify the ergonomic risk factors. ErgoScience utilizes Computer Vision AI for its ergonomics assessments. The use of this cutting-edge technology makes our assessments more objective and cost-effective. Supervisors can also use the technology for training your workforce in better materials handling and safer work practices.
Classroom training alone has been shown to have minimal impact on improving materials handling techniques or reducing strains and sprains. But with Computer Vision AI, you can personalize and augment your ergonomic training. The technology shows the front-line employees exactly which movements and body postures create ergonomic hazards. Repeating the assessment using better body mechanics or more safe work practices shows them the precise impact of those improvements and makes a lasting impression that engages and motivates employees to work smarter, not harder.
In addition, wearable sensors can reinforce the day-to-day implementation of your ergonomic training. They provide haptic feedback (think slight vibration) when employees get out of the safe zone, bend too much, twist the body, or lift in an unsafe manner. The haptic feedback helps them improve over time, and their progress can be tracked by safety/management. Reports can also show which areas of your operation create the most significant risk factors.
All of the above solutions are primary prevention approaches. But even if you implement all of them, there will still be some employees who experience fatigue and discomfort. The key is to have a program that can address this discomfort before it becomes full-blown pain and a recordable or worse - a lost time injury. OSHA allows three interventions that are considered "first aid" for musculoskeletal issues:
In addition, the EIP practitioner can educate program participants on proper lifting techniques, body mechanics, and body positioning for achieving the best ergonomic work practices. Most participants come for 3 to 6 30-minute sessions. The program can be administered onsite, provided there is ample space. The convenience of onsite promotes participation. Alternatively, the program can be provided by PTs in a near-site clinic. In our experience, at least 70% of participants decreased their discomfort and improved their function with EIP. The other 30% triage to a physician or physical therapist.
There's no question that injuries and turnover are sucking the life out of our businesses. Just think what you could do with the resources spent on the $3M/injury turnover! Raises? New Equipment? Research and development of new products and services? But it's not hopeless. Some strategies can have a significant impact on both injuries and turnover.
Act now. Click here to discuss ErgoScience injury and turnover prevention strategies.
(2) Christopher D. B. Burt. New Employee Safety: Risk Factors and Management Strategie, 2015
(3) Nathan C. Huizinga et al., Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Feb; 16(3): 433.