On December 29, 1970, President Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This law gave the federal government the ability to set the bar — as well as enforce — workplace health and safety standards meant to protect employees.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during January of 2018, 4.2 million workers missed work because of an illness or injury. In 2017, the National Census recorded 5,147 fatal work injuries in the United States that resulted from a variety of unsafe working conditions.
Statistics such as this help illustrate the validity of additional precautions to ensure that workplace safety and health extends to all employees.
Promote a Culture of Safety
Workplace safety is all about securing the livelihoods of everyone who interacts with your business. Since it’s all about people, the first place you should be concerned with is exactly that: your people. Promoting, growing, and maintaining a culture of safety is crucial to creating an environment of safety.
As a leader in your business, you must lead. This begins with establishing a policy that emphasizes a culture of safety. This policy must be backed by resources (time, money, effort) that go beyond breakroom warning signs and help to spread safety awareness to every corner of your company. Great steps toward this end include:
- Creating a safety committee that keeps the policy as relevant and updated as possible;
- Holding meetings designed around employee input;
- Setting a budget based on input gathered from employees and the consensus of the safety committee.
The next key ingredient in a safety-conscious culture is training. To reach everyone in the most effective way possible, multiple levels of training and education are required. This is, no doubt, a time-intensive investment, but it’s also the best way to prevent safety-related problems from ever occurring. Training levels include:
- General Awareness Training: all employees need to be aware of the policy functions, contact information/what do in case of an emergency, and employee/employer responsibilities according to the policy;
- Supervisor Training: supervisors need to be able to promote health and safety beyond individual awareness that includes ways to respond to injury/hazards, recognizing potential issues, and incident investigation techniques;
- Individual Role Training: each role in a company requires different responsibilities and equipment. Role training will focus on educating employees to individually protect themselves based on their respective jobs description.
Job training is an ongoing, continual process that needs to be regularly re-emphasized. For example, this can be done at hiring, after a policy update, quarterly, annually, etc.
Just like implementing anything into a business structure, offering rewards and compensation is one of the best ways to encourage employees to welcome and dive into change. Some good examples of rewards to offer for employees following safety guidelines are:
- Office Perks (i.e. best parking spot)
- Remote Work
- Casual Friday
- Team-building Activities (like laser-tag)
This not only is this a good way to make sure the execution of safety policies are executed, but also to create a positive work environment as a whole.
Update Your Facilities
As you are establishing (and re-establishing) your company’s pervasive culture of safety, you must also look around at the physical environment. For the interest of underlining the culture of safety, organizations need to constantly keep their facilities up-to-date.
The good news is that there are many options available for accomplishing this goal, including things as simple as just keeping the area clean.
If you’re running a facility that has a high risk of hazards, consider converting it into a smart building for optimum feedback on day-to-day conditions. This can enable mobile monitoring, automated warnings of area hazards, and other features that make for faster problem-solving and troubleshooting. Other ways to update your facility include:
- Lighting: It’s essential to have a well-lit workspace to minimize workplace injuries, especially in industrial environments like warehouses or manufacturing plants. Lighting makes sure that employees are visually accommodated at all times, and reduces the risk of injury as well as aiding productivity;
- Signage: Providing signs that detail safety guidelines can remind employees of the rules and regulations that may be difficult to remember. Also using signs to indicate hazards helps rid of avoidable incidents;
- Technology: Using technology to avoid workplace incidents is one way to combat workplace accidents. Innovations such as new machinery associated with the Industrial Internet of Things can allow for predictive maintenance, fixing the machinery before it malfunctions.
Identify and Control Hazards
In order to diminish, or completely get rid of hazards in the workplace, you need to know what hazards you face. Ways to identify workplace risks are:
- Review records including injuries, illnesses, and close calls to determine any common trends such as types of injuries, time of day, location of the injury, department, etc.;
- Ask your employees for their opinion on anything they see as a potential hazard in the workplace;
- Inspect the workplace on a regular basis to ensure that everything is functioning properly. The best way to avoid costly and dangerous hazards is through routine preventative maintenance.
Once you have reviewed the accident records, received employee input, and inspected the workplace, you need to address the issues. Issues can be controlled properly through:
- Prioritizing hazards: Some hazards take direct priority over others due to their seriousness. For example, if you identify an electrical hazard, it is best to bring in an electrical contractor to diagnose the root cause of the problem and get it fixed immediately;
- Make a plan to correct hazards: Once you have prioritized the hazards, establishments need to make a plan to correct the hazards to ensure that you do not skip over one when prioritizing. This can often entail working with appropriate contractors to resolve issues professionally and quickly;
- Evaluate the changes: Once corrective action has been taken, organizations need to monitor the efficiency of the changes. If a problem reoccurs, the issue may not have been solved, but rather temporarily patched.
Promote Health and Wellness
Cultivating a company culture that puts an emphasis on health and wellness is beneficial in many ways.
“The leading causes of death and disability in the United States are not only preventable but also responsive to workplace interventions.”OPM.GOV
According to the Office of Personnel Management, “Worksite health and wellness programs help employees modify their lifestyles and move toward an optimal state of wellness. They can also produce organizational and employee benefits, such as lower healthcare costs, increased productivity, improved recruitment and retention, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, and enhanced employee engagement.”
Organizations can offer programs and resources to help promote health and wellness such as:
- Gym memberships;
- Onsite gyms;
- Health and wellness stipends;
- Mandated breaks and time-off;
- Onsite counseling or counseling stipends.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, workers spend a quarter of their lifetimes — and up to half of their lives — at work, or commuting to and from work.
Whether you are an electrical contractor, restaurant owner, hotel chain executive, warehouse facility manager, or an employee at any business – ensuring that workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities are diminished is an essential task in making sure employees return home to their families safely – every day.