Adopt Proactive Measures to Maximize Workplace Safety
The Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The Mottarone cable car accident in Italy. What these accidents share in common is that they were preventable—if proper safety precautions had been taken, they most likely could have been averted.
These and other large-scale events have garnered media coverage and public scrutiny. But smaller events happen every day to companies, affecting individuals as well as employers. Notably, Work Injury Source cites three categories of common workplace injuries that result in time missed from work:
- Sprains, strains, and tears. Injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons can result from twisting, stretching, overuse, or overexertion.
- Soreness or pain. Chronic back pain is one of the most-common complaints among workers whose jobs require them to sit in an office chair for hours a day.
- Cuts, lacerations, and punctures. These injuries can range in severity and can cause a variety of different types of physical limitations.
Simple errors and lapses, such as spills, poor ergonomics, and open cabinets or locker doors, or simply a piece of trash on a hard floor, can all result in unintended injury.
So, what is the best way to create workplace safety and foster an environment where prevention prevails over safety lapses?
Moving from reactive to proactive
The most effective safety programs are geared at preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths—and at reducing financial repercussions for workers, their families and employers. According to the U.S Department of Health and Labor, safety and health programs help businesses:
- Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
- Improve compliance with laws and regulations
- Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers' compensation premiums
- Engage workers
- Enhance their social responsibility goals
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations
Developing employee awareness around decreasing safety risks can go a long way toward preventing incidents. However, the best-laid safety plan is effective only if implemented and accepted across all levels of the organization, which means it also should be simple enough for employees to understand and embrace.
Increasing employee engagement and compliance
To help achieve employee buy-in, employers should focus on employee engagement as well as on safety reporting and compliance.
Even the most engaged employees, however, may be tempted to sacrifice precautions for speed. Some may feel that following certain safety procedures, such as putting on protective gear or wearing a safety harness, takes too much time and that it is more important to get the job done quickly. Others may feel that safety measures aren’t needed to get the job done, or they may not like being told what to do.
Maximizing employee adoption of workplace safety and compliance measures typically requires three strategies: fostering a sense of ownership, providing training, and tracking.
1. Fostering ownership
Ensuring employees have a voice and a sense of ownership can go a long way toward increasing engagement in a safety program. One way to do this is to establish an employee safety committee where employees can have a voice and participate in the organization’s safety culture.
Providing feedback as well as rewards and recognition also can help engage workers and emphasize the company’s commitment to establishing and following sound safety practices. Importantly, employers need to ensure that workers do not experience retaliation when they report safety violations or hazards or when they offer suggestions for making their workplace and jobs safer.
2. Training employees
Long-term exposure to any potential risk leads to complacency. For this reason, it is important to regularly conduct safety talks—web-based or in-person. This form of training, when conducted regularly, has been shown to reduce injury rates by up to 81%.
Topics can range widely, including how to properly operate certain types of machinery and equipment, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary procedures, and navigating certain environmental conditions, to name a few. Importantly, to be effective and ensure employees don’t “tune out,” training needs to include new information.
3. Tracking performance and outcomes
Once a program is in place, organizations need to track employee compliance, as well as monitor the outcomes of safety initiatives. The most effective way to do so is by using digital environment, health and safety (EHS) solutions, such as SafetyTek.
Using EHS systems, companies can produce reports and dashboards to track, for example:
- How many employees have completed training, as well as those employees that haven’t done so.
- Which workers require updated training to maintain their certification for safely operating certain vehicles, machines or equipment.
- The level of injuries, accidents, or other safety incidents versus the level of training being provided.
Additionally, modern EHS solutions, such as SafetyTek, enable employees to self-report using their mobile phones. In doing so, they help to give employees a greater sense of ownership in ensuring the safety of themselves, their co-workers, and the surrounding community.