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The Importance of a Safety Audit for Your Business

Running and maintaining a business includes the responsibility to keep your employees and workplace safe and secure. A safety audit is an essential process to help you ensure compliance, reduce accidents, and keep everyone safe on-site.

The staff at Lake Region Insurance Agency is here to help you find the right coverage for your business. From liability to workers’ compensation, we offer products that protect you and your company. Call or visit today for a comprehensive insurance review and quote.

What Is a Safety Audit?

A safety audit evaluates your company’s existing safety practices and programs. It systematically assesses the processes you have to determine if there are any gaps in your safety protocols. A safety audit collects data regarding employee training, record-keeping, and workplace processes. 

An audit also can act as a legal buffer if something does go wrong. If you have a workplace accident or injury, proof of consistent safety audits can help mitigate problems. 

An auditor looks at specific areas of a safety program when doing their assessment:

  1. Does it embrace industry best practices and regulatory requirements for compliance?
  2. Is there clear and thorough documentation of safety protocols?
  3. Does employee training happen regularly, and does it empower workers to follow regulations?

A safety audit will look at employee training protocols.

Is This the Same as a Safety Inspection?

A safety audit is not the same as a safety inspection. Facility inspections need to happen more frequently and look for immediate concerns in the workplace. 

A safety inspection focuses on identifying immediate hazards and unsafe practices that may be present in a facility. For example, an inspection may look for dangers such as:

  • Tripping Hazards
  • Fire Safety Concerns
  • Dangerous Substances
  • Incomplete Documentation

So while an audit looks at safety systems for the business as a whole, an inspection looks for immediate and potential concerns.

A Safety Audit Helps Support OSHA Compliance

Fans of the American version of The Office might remember the episode where Michael drives a forklift in the warehouse. He has no training and ends up creating a huge mess and safety problem. 

What is funny on television can put lives in danger in reality. Workplace safety is serious business.

In addition to the impact they have on employees, workplace injuries are also costly to an employer. The private sector has almost three billion non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses each year. This number is staggering, considering how many accidents are preventable.

Office workers need to take safety precautions, too.

Companies must comply with regulations mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Safety audits are a significant part of proving adherence to these rules. Failure to comply can result in fines or even a shutdown of the business.

OSHA compliance officers can show up at a workplace unannounced for an inspection. This may be in response to an employee complaint, repeated insurance claims, or as a follow-up to a previous visit. 

They will look for immediate safety threats, signs of non-compliance, and evidence to support employee concerns. Unless there are catastrophic hazards, the business owner likely will have the opportunity to fix problems before OSHA takes punitive action. 

Consistent safety audits on your part as the owner will help ensure that OSHA doesn’t spot any concerns.

How Often Should I Conduct an Audit?

To truly be useful, a safety audit should happen more than once per year. A regularly-scheduled annual audit may actually be detrimental. 

Knowing that an audit is approaching may cause a sudden escalation in safety measures for that window of time. But then managers relax their standards until the next audit comes around. This behavior does not support workplace safety for employees.

A safety audit helps ensure your staff avoids accidents.

Instead, plan several audits throughout the year so that you can accurately assess your programs and protocols. Depending on the size of your operation, you may want to do a few smaller departmental audits and one business-wide review each year. 

For example, you could do a safety audit on the manufacturing floor at one time. Later you can assess the warehouse and distribution. And at a separate time, review the sales and administrative areas.

How Do I Prepare For A Safety Audit?

First, keep in mind that a safety audit’s purpose is not to penalize you. The goal is to identify the practices and procedures that are working and those that aren’t. Ultimately, an audit serves to keep people safe.

If your staff is following appropriate practices, preparing for an audit shouldn’t be overwhelming. But it may take some time.

Gathering all documentation is one of the most critical pieces. As applicable to your business, the auditor may need to see evidence of:

  • Employee Training
  • Employee Certifications
  • Maintenance of Fire Safety Equipment
  • CPR and First Aid Training
  • Food Handler Training
  • Incident Reports
  • Workers’ Comp Claims

The safety audit team should also review previous audits and any recommended corrections. They need to have access to all regulations at the federal, state, company, and local levels, including documentation and training requirements. 

Safety audits should happen regularly during the year.

Depending on your business, you may have an internal manager who can perform inspections and audits. Or, you might need to hire an outside expert to do the job. And in some instances, you might want to use both options.

In addition to general safety compliance experts, there are also industry-specific people available. For example, the trucking and construction industries may rely on auditors with significant expertise in those sectors.

What Are the Consequences of Skipping an Audit?

Safety audits should be non-negotiable at your workplace. Ignoring this practice makes it far too likely that accidents, illnesses, or injuries will occur. 

And without regular audits, repeat offenses become more common. If your company has too many violations or incidents, you could run the risk of losing your insurance. 

Of course, the most significant consequence of skipping a safety audit is that someone could suffer an injury or even death. There is no way to undo the repercussions of bypassing your audits.

How Can We Help?

Lake Region Insurance Agency has a staff of highly-qualified independent agents. We work hard to protect your hard work.

Your business deserves protection on every level, and we are here to provide it. With team members in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN, we can serve you and your business confidently and conveniently. Reach out today to get started.

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How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?

Having an employee suffer an injury on the job can be a scary idea. You worry about their recovery and the impact the injury could have on your operations. How does workers’ compensation work when an accident happens? It takes time, but it offers you significant protection.

The Lake Region Insurance Agency team has a wealth of expertise in all insurance types, including workers’ compensation insurance. Our experienced agents have the tools to help you make an informed, educated choice to obtain the protection you need.

Keep your business secure by protecting your operations in the event of an employee injury. Give us a call or stop by one of our Greater Minnesota offices to understand all of your options.

How Does Workers’ Compensation Insurance Work?

As the name suggests, workers’ compensation is a specific type of insurance policy explicitly designed to support workers. Employees who experience a work-related injury or develop an illness due to their work have protection under this sort of plan.

Workers’ compensation insurance can cover the costs of medical care needed due to injury or illness. These bills can be very high and may prohibit the injured employee from accessing the right treatment for their condition on their own. But workers’ comp gives them the coverage to seek medical care.

How does workers' compensation work if your employee gets hurt?

In addition, worker’s compensation insurance can help cover the loss of earnings. The injured worker may be eligible to receive a portion of their wages for the period they are off work. The amount will vary depending on the individual state’s law.

Policies also may offer permanent disability coverage and death benefits. Although no one wants to consider these possibilities, it’s crucial that you have a policy in place that provides the right protection.

In addition to it being a smart business practice, carrying workers’ compensation insurance is a legal requirement in most states. And the states typically set the guidelines for what your policy must cover.

What Happens If There Is a Claim?

Worker’s compensation claims generally have very specific steps and protocols for the employer and employee to follow. Your insurance agent will be able to walk you through the process for your state. 

Filing a claim requires a lot of reports.

Typically, the following things must happen:

  1. Employee Report – Any employee who suffers an on-the-job injury or develops an occupational illness must report the situation to their employer as quickly as possible. Most states have a strict timeline for this step to validate a claim. The report needs to include the time and date of the incident and the names of any witnesses.
  2. File the Claim – Most likely, both you and the employee will have forms to file to initiate the claim with your insurer. The worker will need to submit medical records to substantiate their claim.
  3. Medical Care – The injured worker must seek medical assistance right away. Not only could a delay be detrimental to their health, but it could render the claim invalid. The medical professional will need to provide a report to go with the claim.
  4. Follow All Instructions – Stay on top of any forms or information you need to provide to the insurer while the claim is open. Delays or omissions can cause significant problems for you and the employee. 
  5. Follow Medical Recommendations – The employee’s return to work must be under medical approval. Do not pressure your employee to come back against medical advice. And be realistic about what a return to work will look like for your employee. They may not have medical clearance to return to full-time duties. You may need to offer a reduced schedule or responsibilities. No matter what, only allow your worker to be back on the job when their doctor approves it in writing.

How Many Accommodations Do I Have to Make?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for workers who experience disabilities, whether they are job-related or not. Unless you can prove an unreasonable hardship to your company, you will need to comply with the requested accommodations.

Injured workers may need accommodations.

Some of the most common changes you may need to consider include:

  • Shifting the employee’s job requirements – For example, if a person has a back injury from working in the warehouse, they may need to switch to a desk job.
  • Reducing the employee’s work hours
  • Providing more frequent workday breaks
  • Adding a ramp to enter the building
  • Allowing for remote work

Can My Employee Sue Me Because of a Workers’ Comp Claim?

In most instances, workers’ compensation offers you protection against a lawsuit from the injured employee. Unless you were grossly negligent or intentionally caused the injury, you probably are safe from legal action. Just be sure you follow all the necessary steps in the claims process.

Non-Eligible Injuries

There are situations when an injured or sick employee cannot file a workers’ compensation claim. These instances include:

  • Intentional, self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries resulting from a fight the employee started
  • Injuries resulting from the employee’s use of drugs or alcohol
  • Injuries resulting from the employee’s commission of a crime

How Worried Should I Be About Fake Claims?

Insurance fraud is a significant concern, and workers’ compensation fraud occurs in about 1-2% of cases. The good news is that most insurers are quite thorough when investigating a claim. After all, they are the ones paying for the medical care and other covered expenses.

Fraudulent claims require investigation.

Investigators are careful to watch for signs of false claims, such as:

  • Late Reports – Employees who file a report about an injury that happened a week or more before are more likely to be lying than those who report promptly.
  • Monday Mornings – Insurance companies are quick to investigate Monday morning reports because there is a chance the injury occurred off the job during the weekend.
  • No Witnesses – The lack of anyone to corroborate an employee’s claim can raise a red flag to insurers.
  • Vague and Unclear Details – If the explanation of what happened doesn’t fit the normal circumstances or job duties, investigators may do more digging.

If you have any concerns about a claim’s validity, talk with your insurer. Let their personnel do the investigation. On your end, be sure to keep clear and detailed notes about what you see and hear from the injured employee and other workers.

Let’s Find You the Right Coverage

The independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency can help you find the right workers’ compensation policy. Protect you, your employees, and your business with this critical insurance plan. 

We are available to serve you from our offices in New London, Willmar, and Cokato, MN. We look forward to hearing from you today.