The International Labor Organization estimates that 2.3 million people die in work-related incidents every year around the world. On top of that, around 340 million workers suffer occupational accidents, and 160 million fall victim to work-related illness annually.
From these statistics, it’s easy to see that one or more of your employees could become a statistic, too if you don’t take workplace safety seriously.
Ensuring your workers have a safe, healthy environment and know how to perform their tasks without undue risks is a vital part of business ownership. Keep reading to find out how you can put plans in place to ensure your team’s safety in the workplace.
Get Help If You Need It
For the small business owner, the realm of workplace safety might seem like an unexplored and foreboding realm, filled with red tape and complications. If this is your feeling, reach out to someone who can demystify the basic safety principles for you.
Professional safety consultants and clinicians can help set you on the right track. Alternatively, you could hire the services of a freelance health and safety practitioner to help you set up the correct policies.
These professionals will help fill you in on the latest safety regulations, and the applicable fines. They help you comply with these by providing information and training on the following:
- Necessary air and water permits
- Facility and site safety audits in compliance with OSHA regulations
- Hygiene, safety, and environmental programs
- Emergency responses to spill and fire
- First aid and CPR
- Solutions to avoid or correct violations
- EHS support regarding chemicals and consumer products
- Ergonomic office design
- Identifying and evaluating HSE standards, risks, and preventive measures
As your company grows, it’s worth considering hiring someone full-time to oversee your safety policies.
Educate Your Employees
Even the best workplace safety policies mean nothing if your employees are unaware of them. Every workplace is unique, so there’s no sense in taking a cookie-cutter approach to occupational health and safety.
Take time refining regulatory procedures and checks to suit your environment. Explain the why and how of each aspect to your employees. When people understand the reasoning behind rules and regulations, they’re more likely to comply.
This is the easiest way to get everyone on board and avoid potential problems.
It’s important to set up emergency procedures as part of this education. Create a plan for all the worst-case scenarios and set up a routine response to each of them.
These are the most common emergency measures your employees must know:
- Fire evacuation procedures
- The location of the first aid box and access to an emergency phone line
- Procedures for handling suspicious behavior
- Exit points and shelter points from an active shooter
- Where to seek shelter from severe weather
- What to do in the event of a bomb threat
- Dealing with a hazardous spill
Signs and notices are an excellent way to inform and guide employees and can serve as reminders to act safely in some cases.
Apart from emergency procedures, signs serve to warn employees about hazards. They can inform them about slippery surfaces, remind them to wear appropriate safety gear, or advise them about evacuation routes.
Make Information Accessible
Notices and signs are only one way to make information accessible to employees.
You should also make sure they have access to clearly worded documents concerning all your company safety policies. If you have multilingual employees, make this information accessible in other languages, too.
Make provision for visually impaired workers by having audio or braille copies available.
Most workplaces use one or more potentially harmful chemicals in their cleaning routine. Be sure to store these substances separately in clearly marked containers, to avoid their misuse.
You must keep a safety data sheet available for all harmful chemicals.
A safety scoreboard lets you document the number of days you’ve gone without an accident in a public space. It’s a good way to keep employees on track with safety goals and keep them motivated, safety-wise.
You should also publish all relevant safety information on your company intranet. This allows your workers to access this information easily from any workstation. Some useful information to include in this portal includes:
- Policies and procedures
- Training videos
- Relevant resources
- Safety tips
It’s helpful to include a frequently asked questions section on this platform. You should also allow employees to submit safety ideas and suggestions via the intranet.
Provide Ongoing Training in Workplace Safety
Every new employee must receive extensive health and safety training shortly after they start.
Apart from this initial training, all employees also need constant refresher courses and updates.
Set up a rigorous training program that includes useful safety advice such as:
- New legislation
- Company policies
- Online security
- Health tips
Not every employee needs to be an expert on safety matters, but it’s a good idea to ensure every employee has a basic understanding of OHS laws, first aid, and cyber-security measures.
You should also expand your training to include staying safe in their personal lives, too. For instance, did you know that even the best SARMS and supplements must undergo third-party testing to avoid serious side effects?
By providing your employees with the information they need to stay safe outside the workplace, you can ensure a safety mindset, limit sick days, and safeguard your workers from undue suffering.
Training goes far beyond handing out manuals, publishing information online, and placing signs. Each employee must undergo safety training at least every couple of months.
Keep Your Workspace Clean and Tidy
The pandemic taught us all the value of cleanliness as a way to limit transmissible diseases like the flu, a common winter scourge of every workplace.
In setting like healthcare and hospitality, absolute hygiene has always been a priority, but now there’s a much stronger focus on cleanliness across the board.
Ensuring your workplace is spotlessly clean is the best way to guard against communicable infectious diseases and prevent unnecessary sick days.
You must set up measures to ensure the following tasks take place as necessary:
- Disinfecting shared surfaces like keyboards, desks, and tables
- Making hand sanitizer available at all times to all employees
- Adequate provision for hand washing using soap and warm water
- Cleaning and disinfecting restrooms at least once a day
Hiring a cleaning service is one way to keep your environment clean and sanitized. Yet, it’s also important to train employees about the importance of handwashing and encourage them to disinfect surfaces before and after use.
A messy workplace leads to slip-and-fall accidents and can hamper productivity. Make sure your employees keep their work areas in good order by providing adequate storage.
This helps keep walkways and desks clear and hazard-free. Use cable ties or trunking to keep wires and cords tucked safely away and reduce the chances of accidents.
Conduct Regular Inspections
Regular inspections are the best way to keep track of your safety initiatives. They can help identify areas for improvement and remind employees to stay at the top of their safety game.
By keeping track of the results each time, you can also monitor improvements and reward people for compliance, or employ more effective tactics to drive your safety principles home.
Every workplace is a constantly evolving space, and inspections are vital to keep track of these changes and ensure ongoing safety at work.
Practice Ergonomics in Your Workspace
Ergonomic principles focus on making work as easy, natural, and comfortable as possible for employees. Some benefits of ergonomic workplace design include fewer injuries, better productivity, and improved job satisfaction.
Ergonomics relies on five basic principles, namely:
- Maintaining correct, neutral postures
- Reducing excessive force and pressure on the joints
- Avoiding reaching for objects
- Working at the correct heights
- Reducing excessive, sudden movements
Take a look around your workplace and see where you can improve, or engage with an ergonomic design expert to help refine your workspaces.
Encourage Regular Breaks
The days of rewarding overwork, overtime, and stress are long gone. Rather, encourage your employees to take regular breaks to prevent fatigue and the safety risks associated with it.
Studies show that working while fatigued is akin to driving under the influence.
Ongoing fatigue can have serious health consequences and negatively affect workers’ ability to act safely. Enforce regular breaks, provide space for employees to go outside and get fresh air, and encourage stretching to improve their overall good health.
In some states, you must provide your workers with mandatory rest breaks. While it’s important to comply with these laws, you should encourage workers to rest frequently, no matter where you’re based.
It’s wise to implement several breaks in an eight-hour workday. This ensures you’re getting the best out of your workers while they’re at their posts.
Develop a Workplace Culture Centered on Safety
The best way to improve safety in your workplace is by making it the norm. When your employees know what’s required of them and why it’s so important, they’re more likely to comply.
Reward those who do comply and actively encourage others to embrace your safety policies. Incentives needn’t cost you a fortune either. You can reward your top performers with a day off, an extended lunch break, or early hometime on a Friday.
Set up safety goals for your teams and celebrate their achievement when they meet these goals. You could buy them lunch, or an after-work drink as a reward.
When your employees consider safety a priority, you don’t need to police them as much. If they’re educated and informed, you don’t need to keep checking if they’re complying.
It’s always a good idea to set up a safety committee to monitor and guide employees with regard to safe practices.
Make it easy for your workers to report unsafe behavior and areas of concern anonymously – nobody wants to be a tattle-tale. Yet, if employees don’t report anything they’re worried about, it could lead to a co-worker injuring themselves.
An anonymous reporting system or safety committee both work well for identifying and dealing with safety issues you might not have knowledge of.
When everyone feels accountable for their actions and keeps tabs on each other, you’ll find a culture of safety spreads quickly through your business.
Workers who believe you care about their safety and value safe practices will comply with your rules unquestioningly and take pride in their good safety record.
They’ll also extend this commitment into their lives after work, helping limit the incidence of sick days and hampered performance due to injuries or ailments.
You must conduct extensive investigations into every safety incident, no matter how small. This will identify areas of concern and assist you in setting up procedures to prevent a repeat occurrence.
In many cases, you’re legally required to complete and submit a report whenever you have a safety incident at work.
Boost Morale With Safety Standards
Workplace safety is vital to protect your workers, alleviate downtime, and keep productivity where should be. It’s also vital for maintaining good morale at work.
When someone has to fill in for an injured or ill co-worker, they’ll experience added stress and unhappiness in the workplace. If they consistently face dangers at work, they’re bound to start looking for a new employer without delay.
It’s time to take safety at work seriously if you want to maximize your employees’ productivity, reduce staff turnover, and stay on the right side of the law.
An extensive safety policy is the first step toward a productive, safe, and thriving business. Would you like some more tips? Browse our blog for advice on how to make your business the best it can be.