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Focusing on potential serious injuries to improve worker safety

Working people in Minnesota could face dangers at work no matter what type of job they do. Businesses take precautions to keep their employees safe, but strategies for workplace safety vary. Many safety experts are advocating for a change to the general belief that companies should just be reporting accidents. They believe that the potential for serious injuries should get special focus, even if workers have a narrow escape from actual injury.

The usual method of handling work accidents, according to the vice president of safety organization DEKRA Insights, has been to treat all injuries equally, but he says that there should be focus on potentially serious or life-threatening injuries, even if a potential injury was avoided. Identifying serious injury or fatality (SIF) precursors can help organizations improve their safety programs.

Direct communication between safety experts and workers can identify potential SIF hazards and build trust. The DEKRA vice-president says that workers need to be confident that they can report hazardous conditions without fear of retaliation, and establishing trust between workers and safety advisors is the key to understanding the potential dangers workers face. Getting the top level of an organization involved is also important as the DERKA vice-president points out in citing the case of a company that launched a SIF prevention program in 2014. Starting out, the manufacturing company had SIF exposure at 29 percent; one year later, the rate had dropped to 17 percent.

Most workers in Minnesota are covered by workers' compensation. But not all workers' compensation insurance is the same. Companies can self-insure or choose an outside insurance company. Workers' compensation is no-fault insurance, which means that it does not matter if a work injury was the employer's fault or the worker's fault; however, claims can still be denied for various reasons.

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