Workplace safety and well-being remain to be a top priority among businesses big and small. This is due to the massive cost of workplace injuries to both employees and employers. According to the National Safety Council, work-related injuries cost companies more than $163.9 billion. More than that, there is also the physical and emotional toll on workers who are disabled or forced to retire early due to their injuries.
Businesses must put more time and effort into reducing on-site hazards and ensuring that workers have the means to stay safe as they handle their responsibilities. If you are a business owner or a company executive, this guide should help you get started in improving workplace safety and creating a healthy environment on-site.
Know your level of risk
To begin, you should know your business’s unique safety situation. Your business’s risk profile will depend on various factors, the most important of which is the industry you are in. According to this article from the University of Delaware, some of the most dangerous sectors include mining, logging, construction, and agriculture. Belonging in any of these industries would mean learning about the procedures, licensing standards, and workplace technologies that can reduce injury risks.
Industries that are generally safe such as manufacturing, finance, and IT may not require the same level of safety investments as high-risk sectors. However, it’s still important for companies to comply with local and national level safety regulations that apply across all industries. Even if your employees aren’t handling high-risk responsibilities, you still need to ensure their safety and well-being on-site.
Location is another factor to keep in mind. Your facility could be situated near an active fault line or a hurricane-prone area. Your company’s risk level rises based on whether you are operating in a high-risk area. Most companies would rather relocate than face these risks, but if you are in a situation where transferring is impractical, you should at least go beyond the bare minimum when it comes to ensuring the safety of your employees.
By learning your level of risk, you should be able to identify the best strategies and learn about the things you need to create a healthier and safer workplace for your employees. Do you need to install more handrails? Do you have a responsive sprinkler system? With your organisation’s level of risk, you need to know whether you satisfy the safety standards of the industry and location you are in.
Educate yourself about safety regulations
After learning your company’s level of risk, you also need to learn about the local and national policies you need to follow. In the United States, business owners refer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which issues regulations and cites companies for safety violations. As an employer, learning about these regulations is crucial to implementing safety standards and reducing the risks that employees face. The agency also provides resources and training to help you and your managers follow the right path when it comes to safety.
The UK, on the other hand, has the Health and Safety Executive which oversees employers’ compliance with national safety standards. The agency’s website also offers various materials that cover everything from ensuring the safety of pregnant workers to reducing employees’ exposure to asbestos and other hazardous materials. The HSE also issues permits and licenses that are required for high-risk activities on-site, such as handling chemicals and pesticides.
Wherever you are in the world, learning about your responsibilities as an employer and the standards you need to follow can help protect your employees from dangerous situations and avoid violating the law.
Provide continuous training
No matter the industry you are in, you should provide on-site staff with the knowledge and skills they need to prevent, anticipate, and respond properly to emergencies. There is a good chance for anything to get worse if everyone on site has no idea what to do. For this reason, you must include safety lessons when you are onboarding new employees. These lessons should include the proper handling of equipment, reporting equipment failures, and following safety protocols.
Going beyond that, you need to provide opportunities for continuous education. New items are always added to safety standards, so it’s important to update on-site regulations so they reflect the latest risks. You may also need to organize training sessions on responding to an emergency.
You can partner with a certified training specialist to help you conduct these sessions for certain employees. If you are in Liverpool, consider reaching out to an FAIB approved first aid training provider that can help you and your employees prepare for anything such as minor injuries, drowning, and poisoning. Through continuous training, your on-site employees can prevent any worst-case scenario and ensure that everyone is doing their part in protecting each other from injuries.
Set up a safety committee
Any organization must have a clear set of guidelines that cover all aspects of workplace safety. For this, you must form a safety committee with the task of drafting safety policies and procedures, ensuring compliance with government safety standards, assessing hazards, procuring safety equipment, and addressing the latest threats to employees’ health and well-being.
Your organisation’s safety committee should consist of supervisors who are trained in certain aspects of workplace safety. Licenses and certifications may not be required, but it matters to appoint individuals who have undergone extensive training, especially when it comes to conducting safety audits and health inspections.
However, you can always appoint someone who is not trained in workplace safety, so long as you have them learn the essentials of policy-making and safety management. Also, you need to make sure that such a person is proficient enough to handle responsibilities as a member of the committee. You need someone detail-oriented and meticulous to head the group.
Organize regular meetings
With your on-site safety committee, you need to meet regularly to discuss recent safety issues and plan out future activities. Then again, the frequency of your safety meetings will depend on your business’s risk profile. If you own a construction business or a contracting company, you should gather monthly. This is optimal since workplace accidents are more likely in these types of industries. On the other hand, if your business involves mostly office work, you can schedule meetings for each quarter.
Safety meetings should focus on gathering input from employees. Suggestions are valuable to improving workplace conditions. They can help identify facilities that must be repaired and implement additional preventive measures. You may also take this as an opportunity to review your current safety guidelines and determine whether it is strictly followed by employees and their supervisors.
Emergency meetings should be organized immediately following a major safety issue. Through these, you can investigate a major safety problem and form a fact-finding committee that can help determine whether an accident is caused by human error or equipment failure. In such cases, you could invite your company attorney to discuss the findings of the investigation from a legal perspective.
When holding any safety meeting, make sure it’s properly recorded. You should have another member document the contents of the meetings, the actions that were agreed upon, and other details that could be critical in court.
Set up health protocols
Workplace safety is not limited to repairing defective equipment and installing mitigation measures. It also includes creating an environment that will not put the health and well-being of employees in danger. If your company handles chemicals and hazardous waste, you need to provide comprehensive guidelines for handling such materials. These may include the proper wearing of protective gear and the right procedures for transferring, storing, and disposing of dangerous substances.
You must also create a workplace that protects employees from harmful biological agents such as viruses and bacteria. If your company specializes in manufacturing pharmaceutical products, your facility should have a sanitation area that employees must pass through before and after entering production areas.
In addition, you should also have action plans in mind in case of an outbreak within the workplace. For this, you need to assign a quarantine area for infected employees and implement other measures that can help control the spread of a virus.
Guard your employees’ mental health
Some companies may not consider this as a core area of workplace safety, but addressing mental health concerns is still within their responsibility. Stress and burnout take a toll not only on productivity but also on the overall health and well-being of an employee.
For this reason, you also need to set up measures for keeping employees engaged and helping them achieve optimal work-life balance. In most cases, emotional damage can also result from injuries sustained at work. As an employer, you also need to meet the emotional needs of your employees and support them during their recovery.
Finally, you also need to create an inclusive work environment that acknowledges the individual differences of your workers. Doing so also means sanctioning cases of discrimination and bullying that could also demoralize an employee. While it’s impossible to keep watch of a person’s mental health situation, creating a safe space for the most vulnerable members of the workforce is still the best you can do.
Workplace safety should be one of your priorities as a business owner. Keep the above steps in mind when implementing a safety program in your workplace.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.