10 Steps toward Safety in the Workplace

10 Steps toward Safety in the Workplace

by Doug Miller; HR & Safety Manager

Workplace safety is good business and must be the shared responsibility of the organization and its employees. With an increased focus on safety, good safety habits begin to take shape. Listed below are 10 basic action items to use in building a culture of safety in the workplace.

Safety Basics: Maintaining a safe work environment does not need to be a highly complex initiative. Most accidents can be prevented by consistently doing the basics extremely well. For starters, ensure that your safety practices encompass the following basic safety elements:

  1. Planning for Safety. Be proactive in creating a safe work environment. The best time to look for and correct safety hazards is before an accident occurs. Hindsight may be 20:20 but foresight and being proactive give you the best chance to prevent injuries and the suffering and expense that often go with them.
  2. Investing in safety. Investments in safety include money, time, organizational commitment, and other resources. Making safety a top priority of the organization from top to bottom has clearly been demonstrated to increase safety outcomes for everyone. An effective safety program serves the purpose of educating the workforce and, at the same time, promoting, raising awareness to, and rewarding safe work habits. These actions, in turn, yield fewer, less severe workplace accidents, lower worker’s compensation claims and less liability for the organization. According to safety consultant, Jim Spigener of DEKRA Consulting, “Investing in safety is also investing in operational reliability. Companies that demonstrate strong organizational support for safety experience improvement not only in safety, but also in absenteeism, employee turnover and employee well-being”.
  3. Forming a Safety Committee. The most common purpose of a safety committee is to help reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses and ensure compliance with federal and state health and safety regulations. In their best form, safety committees are made up of employees at all levels of the organization who have a genuine interest in identifying and leading action steps toward improvements in workplace safety.
  4. Staying abreast of Best Practices. When it comes to workplace safety, best practices to tap into include the following:
    1. Be proactive: Focus on the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses.
    2. Be aware of your surroundings and know where likely hazards exist
    3. Ensure leaders within the organization are onboard in prioritizing safety
    4. Empower everyone to report unsafe conditions and behaviors
    5. Always wear recommended personal protective equipment
    6. Never take shortcuts on safety procedures
    7. Keep all employees engaged in workplace safety
    8. When safety incidents occur, investigate and determine the root cause
    9. Ensure safety is a common and encouraged topic in the workplace
    10. Improve compliance with safety laws and regulations
  5. Written Hazard Communication Plan. According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers that have hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must prepare and implement a Written Hazard Communication Program. OSHA further requires these written plans to address specific topics which identify hazardous substances and train employees on the hazardous chemicals present. Having a clear, up-to-date Hazard Communication Plan that is communicated to all employees is an essential part of any workforce safety approach.
  6. Accident and Near-Miss investigations. The National Safety Council (NSC) defines an accident as an “unplanned, undesired event, not necessarily resulting in injury, but damaging to property and/or interrupting the activity in process”. Investing time and resources toward understanding the factors that led to an accident, or near-miss, will help the organization determine the root cause of the incident and take effective actions to prevent future incidents of the same or similar nature. According to the Society of Human Resources (SHRM), “following a work-related accident or injury, an investigation must be promptly conducted to ensure accurate information is obtained. All accidents and incidents should be investigated regardless of severity. Near-miss incidents in which no damage or harm resulted should also be included.”
  7. First Aid/CPR. The most crucial time in saving a life and/or preventing life-altering injuries is the first 4 minutes following an emergency medical incident. According to first-aid training specialists, Green Guard, “A trained person is more reliable, confident and in control of themselves when an emergency arises. People who are trained are more likely to take immediate action in an emergency situation.” Organizations that invest in first-aid and CPR training recognize these steps are the most critical things they can do to help save the life of someone experiencing a medical emergency.
  8. Safety Strategy, Education and Training: Organizations wishing to improve safety in the workplace need to start with an honest discussion regarding what their safety needs are, what goals and objectives they wish to accomplish, and how they will go about meeting them. According to OSHA, education and training provide employers, managers, supervisors, and workers with the following advantages:
    1. Knowledge and skills needed to do their work safely and avoid creating hazards that could place themselves or others at risk.
    2. Awareness and understanding of workplace hazards and how to identify, report, and control them.
    3. Specialized training when their work involves unique hazards.
  9. Reward safe work behaviors. When workers begin to recognize that the organization is serious about investing in and building a culture of safety, work behaviors begin to change. When those behaviors are rewarded, safety becomes part of the work culture.
  10. Build momentum and stick with it! It is not enough for organizations to create safety policies, mission statements, and goals and objectives. To build a safer work environment, managers and workers must partner together to create change and then stick with it over the long-term. When safety is recognized as an ongoing top priority of the organization, everyone wins.