Why a lack of training is bad for employers and employees alike
Too many workplace injuries are the consequence of poor or inadequate training, which is ultimately the responsibility of employers. This is particularly true when the workplace poses extraordinary hazards.
With appropriate training and safety education, however, employers can not only decrease injuries and work absences but also increase productivity and job satisfaction, leading to many additional benefits for employers and employees alike.
Arizona statistics on nonfatal workplace injuries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, Arizona private employers reported more than 57,000 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in workplaces. The incidence rate for Arizona was 2.8 per 100 full-time workers that year, which is just slightly higher than the national rate of 2.7.
Of the 57,000 cases reported, almost 35,000 were severe enough to require days away from work.
The industries reporting the most nonfatal accidents (41%) were transportation, trade, utilities, education and health services.
Arizona statistics on fatal workplace injuries
The BLS also reports that in 2020, there were 97 fatal injuries and illnesses in Arizona workplaces, which was an increase from the previous year.
The highest incidence of fatal accidents occurred in the transportation industry, with 30 fatalities, or 31% of all workplace deaths. Nationally, transportation injuries accounted for 37% of all reported workplace fatalities.
Other top causes of workplace fatalities in Arizona in 2020 include the following:
- Exposure to hazardous substances or environments (25 fatalities)
- Workplace violence (17 fatalities)
- Contact with objects or equipment (14 fatalities)
Preventable injury-related workplace deaths
The National Safety Council (NSC) reported that in 2021, there were 4,472 preventable injury-related deaths in U.S. workplaces. That’s a rate of 3.1 per 100,000 workers.
For 2021, of the 4,472 preventable deaths, the top three industries reporting preventable work deaths were:
- Construction (946 deaths)
- Transportation and warehousing (900 deaths)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (435 deaths)
Top 3 myths about workplace injuries
Several myths persist about the prevention of workplace injuries. Dispelling them is critical to changing the outdated mentality that continues to cause needless death and injuries for workers each year.
Myth #1: Accidents are bound to happen
The truth: Accidents happen for a variety of reasons, including negligence. Fortunately, negligence can be prevented, and hazards are removable. An employer’s failure to recognize and eliminate hazards in the workplace is negligence. Likewise, failure to properly train employees negligently gives rise to preventable accidents in the workplace.
Myth #2: Safety training is a waste of money
The truth: The cost consequences of employee injuries from a hazardous workplace (including medical bills and missed work) far exceed the cost of preventing them.
Myth #3: You can never truly eliminate workplace hazards
The truth: Arguably, a completely hazard-free workplace is hard to come by. Workplace conditions change, but safety protocols can be established that can prevent the development of hazards. Hazards can also be eliminated as soon as they’re identified. Both vigilance and adherence to safety protocols can substantially reduce the risk of workplace accidents.
Top examples of inadequate training in the workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to meet certain standards to help protect workers from on-the-job hazards.
Below are just some of the ways that employers frequently fail to comply with OSHA requirements for training in the workplace:
- Failure to have labels and safety data sheets on all hazardous chemicals in the workplace
- Failure to educate employees on their job requirements
- Failure to provide proper safety equipment (free of charge)
- Failure to provide adequate supervision
- Failure to provide sufficient posting and explanation of safety codes
- Failure to provide complete risk information
- Failure to train employees to safely handle and dispose of chemicals and bloodborne pathogens
- Failure to diligently screen new hires
- Failure to have an emergency action plan in place and inform workers of such plan
Common injuries attributed to inadequate training
As already discussed, when employers fail to implement appropriate training and safety measures, accidents and injuries are sure to follow. Some of the most common injuries attributed to inadequate training include the following:
- Falls from scaffolds, ladders or other equipment leading to head injuries, spinal cord injuries and broken bones are common when there is insufficient training to use the equipment properly.
- Lifting injuries, including back injuries, are common when there is inadequate training in manual handling of heavy items.
- Skin burns from chemicals or hot objects frequently result from inadequate training on how dangerous substances must be handled.
- Electrical shocks can occur when there is inadequate training on the proper use of equipment or machines.
- Repetitive stress injuries and other musculoskeletal injuries can occur when workers aren’t trained on proper ergonomics and other techniques to avoid these injuries.
- Crush injuries, head and spinal cord injuries, and even amputations can occur when there is inadequate training on the safe operation of heavy machinery, equipment and tools.
These and other injuries can be prevented if employees are adequately trained in the safe performance of their jobs.
Which workers are most at risk of injuries from inadequate training?
Because of the hazardous nature of their jobs, there are several occupations with a higher risk of injury and death when inadequate training isn’t provided. They include:
Ways training reduces workplace injuries
Safety training is a widely recognized practice to reduce workplace injuries. That training seeks to teach workers to recognize and eliminate risks with proper use of equipment and safe performance of their duties.
The following are just some of the ways employee training helps reduce workplace injuries and deaths.
Ensures proper use of equipment
Workplace instruction on the proper use of equipment reduces the risk of injuries by ensuring that employees are knowledgeable about safe handling procedures.
Through comprehensive training, employees learn how to operate the equipment correctly and identify potential hazards before they have a chance to cause a serious injury. This knowledge empowers them to make informed decisions and take necessary precautions, ultimately minimizing the likelihood of accidents on the job.
Such training must be updated regularly because workplace operations are not static. The equipment and skills required to operate them change with modernization and modification of purposes. Additionally, diligent supervision and enforcement of protocols are necessary to ensure that safety training is being implemented daily.
Ensures workers are aware of potential risks
Proper workplace training must be designed based on a clear recognition of the risks associated with the job. Employees must be trained to recognize the potential risks of their job and know what to do in response.
Employees should also be trained to ask for guidance if they’re confronted by a new risk and should assume there are risks when they’re asked to perform a new task or use new tools, machinery, chemicals or equipment.
Simply being aware of potential risks has been shown to greatly reduce injuries in the workplace.
Reduces mental burnout
Impairment of mental health is commonly experienced with some challenging job responsibilities. Stressful and physically demanding work environments can lead to “burnout,” and afflicted workers may need a break from their circumstances to recover.
Fortunately, workers can be trained to prevent burnout by recognizing the sources of their stress, developing coping mechanisms and avoiding activities that cause it. Such training should include discussions of time management skills, stress management practices, healthy diet and quality sleep patterns.
Benefits of employee training for employers
We typically think of safety and other worker training as necessary for the reduction of workplace accidents. But proper training can positively affect the employer’s operations in other ways, too.
Happy workers and low turnover
Workers who are not properly trained often do not feel safe or satisfied in their positions. This leads to high turnover rates. The cost of orienting and training new employees is significantly higher than the cost of retaining current employees by providing them with appropriate training.
Workers who do not know how to perform their job effectively and efficiently produce less than they would if they were properly trained. Moreover, they have a heightened risk of workplace accidents leading to lost workdays. Their productivity is significantly increased with proper training.
Lower operating costs
Failure to adequately train employees affects the employer’s bottom line in many respects. Inadequately trained workers lead to:
- Medical costs for injuries sustained because of inadequate safety training
- Customer claims for defective products
- Litigation costs for cases of worker or customer injuries
In the news:
Worker dies due to lack of training
In December 2021, a 39-year-old employee was killed while at work in a Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton, Illinois. He had only been on the job for 9 days when he fell into an 11-foot-deep vat of molten iron and was incinerated. He was working as a melt deck operator and fell into a melter while trying to obtain a sample.
OSHA investigated the case and determined that “if required safety guards or fall protection had been installed, the 39-year-old employee’s ninth day on the job might not have been their last.”
They found that the employer routinely exposed employees to fall hazards, as they were required to work within 4 feet of unguarded containers of molten iron.
As one of the largest foundries, Caterpillar knew of OSHA’s safety standards specifically aimed at smelting industries. But there were no guardrails or other restraints that could have saved a life, which are a minimum standard for employee rights. These violations were determined to be willful.
Compensation after a death at work
The Caterpillar case illustrates a worse case of employer negligence with limited accountability. Under Illinois law, like that of Arizona, an injured employee (or their survivors) has a claim under the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system. The claimant is not required to show that the employer was at fault.
However, the trade-off is that workers’ comp is the employee’s exclusive employee right or remedy. They cannot recover damages under the state’s personal injury tort law. Also, they are not entitled to damages for pain and suffering, other non-economic damages, or punitive damages that can be awarded in a personal injury lawsuit.
In the case of fatal accidents, workers’ compensation awards death benefits to the employee’s survivors, which are limited to funeral expenses and compensation based on the deceased’s average weekly wages. An action under either the Illinois or Arizona wrongful death statutes could potentially result in even greater damages.
An exception to the exclusivity rule is recognized for cases where the employer’s actions or inactions were willful.
In those cases, an employee might be allowed to recover damages from the employer under the state’s personal injury tort law.
Also, the exclusivity of workers’ comp law does not preclude an injured or deceased employee’s heirs from suing third parties if they can prove the negligence of the third party is the proximate cause of their injury.
In the Caterpillar case, OSHA cited 2 contractors as bearing some responsibility for the worker’s death. Both were fined. Under the Illinois wrongful death statute, the deceased employee’s family would have a reasonably good chance of receiving compensation that is commensurate with their loss.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Contact an experienced Arizona workers’ compensation attorney
The importance of employer responsibilities for worker training to prevent injuries cannot be overstated. Without proper training, employees are left vulnerable to potential hazards and unaware of essential safety protocols.
Investing in comprehensive training programs, regular updates, and ongoing education is not just a legal requirement; it’s a moral obligation to ensure the well-being and safety of every employee. By prioritizing worker training, companies can create a safer, more productive, and happier work environment, fostering a culture of safety and success.