10 Tips to Improve Your Workplace Safety
Ensuring workplace safety will prevent accidents and save your business time and money. Here are 10 workplace safety tips that will help you keep your people safe and your business running normally.
Since President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses has decreased dramatically.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, rates of accidents and health problems in the workplace went from 10.9 cases per 100 workers in 1972, to 2.8 cases in 2018.
In America and other industrialized countries, it’s never been safer to work. However, that doesn’t mean that workplace safety can be taken for granted. The increased safety we enjoy today is the result of hard work over decades by advocates, labor organizations, and companies themselves, and there’s still more work to be done.
In the United States in 2018, business owners paid nearly $60 billion to cover worker’s compensation for injuries and fatalities, amounting to more than a billion dollars a week. We know now that rates of illness, especially respiratory illness, skyrocketed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and sick workers have led to staffing shortages across industries, highlighting just how crucial healthy employees are to the smooth operation of a business.
Brent Bousquet, Owner of IGH Health, Fire and Safety, explains why a proactive approach to safety is the best way to avoid these problems:
No matter your organization’s safety record, it’s vital that workplace safety is given careful consideration at every turn. Here are 10 tips that will help you keep your people safe and your business running normally.
10 Workplace Safety Tips
1. Communicate the importance of safety culture
Workplace safety is a job that’s never done, and it’s not just the responsibility of your Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) team alone. Rather, your organization should strive to build a culture of workplace safety to which everyone is accountable.
Safety culture is a foundational set of beliefs and behaviors that a company upholds about workplace safety. When a company prioritizes safety above all else, you might say they have a strong safety culture. A workplace safety culture requires buy-in from everyone at your company, from the newest hire up to the CEO and board members. When safety is ingrained in your company culture, all your employees are going to see it as a standard, not a formality.
A strong culture of workplace safety means that your employees are empowered to point out safety hazards, and are far more productive in their daily duties thanks to increased confidence in their peers and processes. Jeffrey Trask, the Enterprise Emergency and Insurance Risk Manager at ISO New England, said in our Employee Safety Podcast that safety culture boils down to explaining the “why” behind safety procedures to everyone. This can be tough amid day-to-day responsibilities, but the best safety managers make sure that everyone builds emergency response skills so that in an emergency, they can respond quickly to save life and limb and keep operations running.
2. Encourage situational awareness
If you don’t know what’s happening, you can’t react. It’s impossible to avoid 100% of workplace safety incidents, but you can give your people the tools and skills to mitigate risks and respond to them. Most importantly, you should encourage your team to constantly take stock of their environment and flag anything that seems wrong or unsafe, often crystallized in the catchy line, “see something, say something.” By enlisting everyone at your company to point out anything fishy, you drastically reduce the chance of accidents or hazards growing out of control.
3. Host regular safety training
Hazards won’t strike at a convenient time, so you need to be ready before they occur. Workplace safety is a skill set that must be honed over time, and an important part of that is providing standardized training to employees. Chris Marciano with Prepare to Act shared his own experiences with this:
This training can cover topics such as hazard awareness and response, but shouldn’t be delivered solely as a lecture or document. Instead, OSHA recommends incorporating hands-on learning techniques so workers can become familiar with whatever might be required of them during a workplace safety incident. The best teachers for this are often the workers who are tasked with handling such events, so be sure to include them. Combining activity-based learning with peer-to-peer instruction is particularly effective at teaching workers, as workers learn from each other, and those who have already experienced emergencies and can share their experiences.
4. Provide proper safety equipment and PPE
Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, is equipment that minimizes the risk of injury or accident befalling a worker. PPE can include gear such as gloves, helmets, eye and hearing protection, face masks, harnesses, and more. Over the past few years we’ve all become acquainted with medical PPE such as masks, but don’t forget that personal protective equipment is anything that your workers need to stay safe on the job.
Make sure everyone has equipment that is in good working order and fits them. If they are missing any particular piece of gear, you should provide them with an easy and fast way to request and receive replacement safety equipment.
5. Keep facility and equipment in good condition
When a large group of people collaborates in the same space, uses the same equipment, and walks the same floors, working conditions can deteriorate quickly. Everything from forklifts to alarms to the break room coffee maker must be maintained and kept in a safe and sanitary condition. This helps you prevent slips and falls due to wet or dirty floors, avoid accidents from poorly-maintained tools and machines, and overall keep your people safe and healthy.
6. Communicate about hazards
Despite your best efforts to support a safe working environment, accidents might still occur. That’s why it’s paramount that you have a way to communicate with everyone should such an event come to pass. Posted signage like wet floor signs and reminders on the bulletin board can be helpful in this case but is far from sufficient.
A two-way communication tool such as AlertMedia’s mass notification system can help solve this problem. It enables your company to not only broadcast safety alerts to your employees, but it also allows your employees to respond with information or questions of their own, increasing the overall visibility of safety issues among your workers and administrators.
7. Celebrate safety over speed
You can tell the most about a company’s culture by asking one question: what do they celebrate? That is, what does success look like in the company’s eyes? Is it maximizing profits at all costs? Maybe producing a quality product or maintaining your beloved brand? Those goals are all well and good, but if you want to improve your workplace safety, your team should be encouraged and empowered to celebrate the prioritization of safety.
For example, if a worker comes to their supervisor with a safety concern of theirs, they should under no circumstances be made to feel like they did the wrong thing. If their supervisor responds with a roll of the eyes and an exasperated call to shut down the factory floor, then employees will be less likely to report such things in the future, which could lead to catastrophe. Instead, make sure that safety efforts on behalf of your team are celebrated and valued, despite the slowdowns they might cause.
8. Keep safety records
Any company with more than a handful of employees knows that record keeping is important for sales and staffing purposes, but some forget that the same should apply to safety recordkeeping as well. Maintain a record of all safety efforts like training sessions, as well as attendance for those sessions so you know who’s been trained on what.
The most important things to record are all safety incidents and accidents so that you can learn from them. An after-action report can help your safety team identify what caused the issue and how it can be prevented and mitigated in the future.
9. Prioritize good ergonomics
One of the most common workplace-related injuries are musculoskeletal disorders. These health problems can manifest as damage to muscles, nerves, bones, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. They are most often found in jobs that require heavy lifting or similar repetitive tasks for long periods. The answer to these issues is good ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the practice of fitting a job to a person. That is, making sure that their equipment fits their body and their task so that they can work comfortably with a decreased risk of injury. Employers are required to provide workers with an ergonomic workspace, so be sure that management supports ergonomic efforts. Most importantly, listen to the workers who operate in said workspaces and learn from their on-the-job experiences.
10. Prioritize mental and psychological health as well as physical
Employers around the world have found that mental health has grown as a challenge ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As employees experienced greater stress due to world events, workers became acutely aware of feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction. This in turn led to a wave of people leaving their jobs that has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.”
Burned-out workers can become less invested in their jobs, and there’s concern that said burnout is contributing to safety violations. As an employer, it’s your job to keep tabs on how your employees are feeling about their jobs and encourage them to take time off to avoid burning out. A happy workplace is more productive and safe than a burned-out one!
As an employer, you have a duty of care to ensure your employees’ safety and health. When your employees come to work for you, you must do everything in your power to keep them safe and healthy. This is not only the ethically correct thing to do, it will also lead to better business outcomes. If you’re developing or revising a safety program for your company, incorporating these tips will lead to a safer and more resilient workplace.