Whether you’re working behind a desk or in a large manufacturing facility, the health and safety of everyone in the company should be the number one concern. Each individual is unique and so is the work we perform, but when it comes to keeping safe, there are common themes that help keep us all safe on the job, no matter the job.
The goal of a safe workplace is to have a built in culture where everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety. No one is above anyone when it comes to safety, meaning safety has the same value from the CEO down to the maintenance staff.
Why is it important to have a safe and healthy workplace?
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the direct and indirect costs of work injuries and illnesses is $170 billion a year nationwide. This is just a number though. When you figure in the human element and the direct effects injuries have on our quality of life, the value is much greater than a number in front of the dollar sign.
Organizations with a strong safety culture generally experience all of the following benefits:
- Fewer at-risk behaviors
- Lower accident rates
- Lower turnover
- Less absenteeism
- Less downtime
- Higher productivity
These 10 keys to a safe and healthy workplace are no guarantee that your organization will see all of these benefits. However over time, if you build a culture around these ideas, the foundation should be solid enough to support these benefits for the long haul.
10 Keys to a Safe and Healthy Workplace
1. Make safety a clear focus: No one should have a doubt that safety is the number one focus in the workplace. All employees should understand the value that safe work practices have. They should feel confident in their ability to contribute to the safety culture as well as understand how their actions can have an affect on co-workers, family and the community.
2. Set clear responsibilities and expectations: Every worker as the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Getting there however, is easier said than done. Setting clear responsibilities and expectations for your staff puts everyone on the same page.
3. Ensure everyone knows the laws and regulations for the work they do: Laws change and so do the people performing the work in your organization. Laws and regulations need to be a priority in communications between management and staff. Using safety meetings as a platform for communicating these topics. Visual tools like posters and other wall signage can also help to remind employees of specific regulations.
4. Have a system to organize safety and health efforts: To monitor progress and find weaknesses in your organization, you need a way to organize the information as it comes in. From near misses to accident reporting, it should all be recorded and addressed according to policy. This will help make improvements where they are needed most and help everyone feel confident that their efforts are being utilized.
5. Implement a process that addresses hazards in timely matter: If you’re expecting employees to report and document hazards, then you need a system in place to address these concerns quickly. If employees see their concerns being addressed quickly, then they are much more likely to continue reporting hazards, and more importantly, near misses.
6. Evaluate and implement incentive programs: Incentive programs are a great motivator for employees. Getting rewarded for their hard work and commitment to safety will keep employees focused on safety. However, this should not be the only reason employees are focused on health and safety. Make sure your incentive programs are promoting safety as an overall concern for the good of all, not as a single reward for the individual.
7. Have an open door to suggestions: Have as many avenues possible for employees to report, suggest and open up about any concerns they may have. Ensure that this is welcomed and needed to keep the organization as safe and healthy as possible.
8. Hold everyone accountable, including and especially management: If you’re trying to create a culture where everyone is equal, then you must hold everyone accountable for their actions equally. No one should get a pass when it comes to safety. If someone in management neglects to wear the proper PPE, then they should be held just as accountable as the average employee. Failure to treat everyone equal, especially when it comes to accountability can result in a complete breakdown of the safety culture you’re trying to build.
9. Train everyone in proper reporting of injuries, first aids and near misses: All employees should be properly educated in the reporting processes based off the incident their reporting. They need to understand the accident pyramid and how important it is to report those near misses. Management also needs to be on board with the increase in reports. This should be seen as an opportunity to make improvements, not a burden on their workload.
10. Promote culture that is founded on mutual respect and open communication: This may be tenth on the list, but it’s number one when it comes to measuring your overall success. Without a built in culture that believes in your safety goals and feels everyone is on a level playing field, the other nine points will be meaningless.