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Safety Awareness Month: Danger on the High Seas … and On and Off the Job

Workload issues, boredom, interoffice squabbles – all are par for the course in most of today’s workplaces. Those issues are downright mundane, however, when compared to the challenges facing loggers, roofers and taxi drivers, whose lines of work are ranked among the 10 most dangerous in America by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1

Some occupations on the bureau’s most recent high-risk list were unsurprising – electrical power-line installers, truck drivers and steel workers face daily dangers, for example. But the occupation that topped the list may come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t tuned in to “The Deadliest Catch,” the popular Discovery Channel program detailing the exploits of fisherman trolling the icy waters of the Bering Sea. That’s right: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fishing is the most hazardous job in the United States. 1

Most lines of business aren’t as fraught with peril as those on this year’s most-dangerous list, but employee safety should always be a primary concern for our nation’s businesses. June is National Safety Awareness Month, making it a good time for employers to consider whether they’ve done all they can to ensure their workplaces are safe for employees. It’s not only the right thing to do for their workers – it makes good sense for their organizations too. After all, 6 million workers suffer non-fatal workplace injuries each year at an annual cost to U.S. businesses of more than $125 billion.2

What kind of injuries are the most common among America’s workers? Sprains, strains and tears lead the way at 38 percent, with the injuries attributed primarily to “overexertion in lifting or lowering.”1 Here’s a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics chart outlining how those injuries occur and which body parts are affected:

Chrt B: Distribution of sprain, strain, and tear cases requiring days away from work by selected event or exposure and part of body, all ownerships, 2011

Danger Lurks at Home Too

Business leaders are naturally concerned about the effect on-the-job injuries have on employees’ well-being, as well as on their companies’ finances and productivity. But off-the-job safety issues should be top of mind for employers too, because Americans are actually safer at work than at home: The National Safety Council reports that for every at-work injury, another three injuries take place away from the job.3

According to the council, off-the-job worker injuries and deaths cost the nation at least $246.8 billion in 2007, or $1,677 per U.S. worker. This figure includes lost wages, medical and hospital costs, and administrative expenses associated with insurance. What’s more, employers lose more than 255 million days of production time each year due to off-the-job incidents, compared with 55 million lost workdays resulting from workplace injuries.4

Protecting Employees’ Wallets and Companies’ Bottom Lines

Naturally, smart companies do everything possible to eliminate workplace hazards, but accidents happen. That’s why they’re called accidents – and they’re one reason robust benefits plans are so crucial not only for workers, but for their companies too.

Two options that can increase workers’ peace of mind and generate goodwill toward their employers are short-term disability insurance and accident insurance. Here’s the lowdown on each:

  • Disability insurance – When an employee suffers a disabling injury, the initial focus is naturally on the journey to healing. The second is often, “How soon can I return to work – and how will I pay my bills if I’m out of work for an extended period?”

    If disabled, workers may not lose only their ability to earn a living, but also savings and retirement funds. They may even face losing their homes. By offering voluntary short-term disability insurance, employers offer them the confidence that comes with knowing benefits can be used to help pay the mortgage or rent, as well as for gas, groceries, education expenses – in short, any bill that threatens a family’s financial security.

  • Accident insurance – Accident insurance helps employees stay ahead of the medical and out-of-pocket expenses that add up quickly after an injury. Again, benefits can be used not just for emergency treatment, hospital stays and medical exams, but also for other expenses workers may face, such as transportation costs, lodging needs and daily living expenses.

    The protection accident insurance provides may be particularly important to employees who are generally healthy and have not met the deductibles on their major medical insurance policies, because benefits can be used to pay out-of-pocket medical costs, including deductibles and co-payments.

Here’s another reason robust benefits plans benefit employers in addition to employees: Workers surveyed as part of the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report5 said a strong benefits package increases their company loyalty, productivity and job satisfaction – and also plays a major role when they’re deciding whether to remain in their current jobs or move on to jobs with better benefits.

To learn more about how voluntary disability insurance coverage can benefit businesses and their employees, go to http://www.aflac.com/business/short_term_disability_insurance.aspx.

For information about the value of accident insurance, visit http://www.aflac.com/business/accident_insurance.aspx – and to learn about the high cost of common accidents and injuries, check out Aflac’s Real Cost Calculator.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary 2011, accessed May 15, 2013 - http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm
2OSHA Fact Sheet, accessed May 15, 2013 - http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/jobsafetyandhealth-factsheet.pdf
3The National Safety Council, Bring Safety Home, accessed May 14, 2013- http://www.nsc.org/news_resources/Resources/Documents/Off-the-Job%20Fact%20Sheet%20rcvd%2010%2022%2009.pdf,
4The National Safety Council, Off-the-Job Safety, accessed May 14, 2013-http://www.nsc.org/safety_work/bringsafetyhome/Pages/BringSafetyHome.aspx,
5The 2013 Aflac Workforces Report, a study conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, accessed May 14, 2013 - http://www.aflac.com/brokers/insights/aflac_workforces_report/default.aspx

Individual coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus. Group coverage is underwritten by Continental American Insurance Company (CAIC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aflac Incorporated. CAIC is not licensed to solicit business in New York, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands. For groups sitused in California, group coverage is underwritten by Continental American Life Insurance Company. For individual coverage in New York or coverage for groups sitused in New York, coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.