How to Create and Maintain a Safe Workplace
When safety falls through the cracks, you endanger your employees and place a financial burden upon your talent and your company due to lost wages and work days, and medical expenses. Businesses of all sizes—from tech startups to well-oiled manufacturing facilities—need safety protocols, training, and equipment that support the health and safety of employees, whether they sit at a computer all day or operate heavy machinery.
It is serious business. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), more than 12 workers die while working every day. And more than 4.1 million workers experience serious job-related injuries or illnesses every year.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required by law to provide a safe workplace that is free of hazards, and to offer necessary training and safety gear. Aside from reducing harm to employees, injury and illness prevention programs have extensive benefits for workers and organizations, including reduced medical costs, and improved employee productivity, retention, and morale. Ultimately, a rigorous and clear safety program shows you care about your employees.
What is Considered a Safe Workplace?
Of course, this depends upon the nature of the company and the work. Safety requirements at an internet tech company are going to be vastly different than those at a logistics facility or a manufacturing plant. For companies where employees handle hazardous materials, personal protective equipment (PPE) is critical, as is frequent training on how to use the equipment properly and inspections to ensure no piece of PPE is damaged. For employees of a tech company or customer service call center, ergonomic furniture and training to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome will be high on the list. Safe workplaces share a commitment to providing all the necessary equipment and training required for the health and well-being of their workers.
Follow these steps to ensure your employees are always safe at work:
Foster a Safety Culture
Safety culture is similar in theory to workplace culture, except with the focus on safety. It refers to the values, attitudes, and beliefs your organization demonstrates when it comes to safety and protecting the physical and mental well-being of everyone in the workplace. Of course, safety protocols and training are important, but a positive safety culture ensures these procedures are followed and corners are never cut to improve the bottom line.
Value Safety at Every Level
Safety programs breakdown and the risk of accidents increases unless people at every level of an organization pay attention with care and consistency. A few safety posters around the workspace and the occasional lackluster safety meeting aren’t going to cut it. To be valuable, a culture of safety should be encouraged and supported at every level of the organization.
The CEO of the company should address safety in company emails, newsletters, and meetings. Managers and supervisors who are in frequent contact with the majority of employees should discuss it daily. It’s particularly important that supervisors lead by example and always take the time to follow safety steps themselves.
A measure of responsibility also falls on employees to look out for their coworkers. Leaving the copy machine low on paper because you’re busy is inconsiderate, but not the biggest deal. Noticing and ignoring liquid spilled on the hallway floor, however, could end up in an injury. “Safety First” is such a common phrase that it’s easy to forget its importance. But when safety goes by the wayside, people get hurt and productivity slows or comes to a screeching halt.
Offer Ongoing Training
Safety training is an important part of onboarding, no matter your business. Always, teach new employees how to use their PPE before they start work, and let them know who is in charge of replacement equipment. Conduct a workspace walkthrough with them, pointing out known safety hazards, emergency exits and equipment, as well as first aid kits.
Current workers need continued training as well, both as a regular reminder of existing safety measures and to introduce new procedures and equipment. It’s wise to organize monthly workshops touching on safety issues relevant to your industry throughout the year. For example, an office-based business may offer a workshop on the serious health problems caused by sitting, or an industrial facility may offer regular lockout/tagout (LOTO) retraining.
Hire for Safety
Include safety questions during the hiring process to determine whether candidates prioritize safety. Also, be sure to only bring on talent with the certifications and training they need to accomplish their responsibilities safely.
Remember Security is a Safety Issue
As too many news reports in recent years have shown us, security measures are integral to a safe workplace. There is no place of work—public or private—that is free from the possibility of becoming the target of an aggressive and/or unstable person. As an organization, you must regularly review whether your security protocols adequately protect against such events. You may discover a change as simple as regularly changing the keys is sufficient, or you may discover your organization needs to add security personnel. Your company should also designate point people to take on different tasks during an emergency, such as calling 911 or leading people to exits.
Review, Inspect, Repeat
Safety procedures and protocols should evolve, as your business and facilities grow, and safety equipment technology changes. Depending upon the size of your business, give an individual or a team the responsibility of reviewing your organization’s safety procedures periodically. It’s helpful for the safety point team to conduct regular walkthroughs of offices and worksites to look for hazards. Seek input from your employees who will often notice safety gaps that managers miss. Finally, inspect the PPE you supply for your employees for signs of damage, or wear and tear.
Need assistance hiring for safety and reviewing your workplace for hazards? Contact LINK.