How to Create a Successful Employee Safety Program
Whether you work in construction, retail, transportation, or finance, the workplace can pose certain accident risks. No one wants to get hurt, and no one wants to deal with workers’ compensation claims, but accidents do happen.
The best way to avoid a workplace accident is through a great safety program. But not all programs are alike. The ones that go above and beyond the basic requirements see a greater risk reduction, while some programs might be barely meeting the minimum standard - creating an illusion of safety that can endanger the workforce.
How to Create a Successful Safety Program
To guarantee your employees are protected against a workplace accident, it’s important to ensure the right measures are part of your company’s safety program. Complying with standards and creating a culture of safety will lower the probability of an accident and increase employee productivity.
Here are 3 ways to ensure that your company has a successful safety program.
Train, train, and train again.
The greatest tool you can equip your employees with is knowledge. You can’t expect your workers to follow safe practices if you’ve never taught them how. Safety training should be included in the onboarding process for new employees, and refreshers should be held periodically for experienced employees.
Placing an emphasis on training shows your employees that you care about their safety, and it empowers them to make safer choices. OSHA found that training your employees on safety standards can reduce the risk of workplace injury and illness by up to 60%.
An effective safety training should include:
- Identifying site-specific hazards and how to handle them
- Required personal protective equipment
- Accident and emergency response
- Demonstrations with equipment and machinery
- How to handle chemicals and hazardous materials
- Encouraging workers to identify and report hazards or unsafe practices to a supervisor
- Informing workers of their OSHA rights
You should also include anything else specific to your workplace or industry.
Analyze your worksite for safety risks.
You can’t just sweep the room once for safety risks and leave it at that. Analyzing a worksite is a regular process to make sure training, equipment, and procedures are up to date.
A worksite analysis should include:
- Identifying safety and health hazards
- Evaluating the risks for each hazard
- Recommending methods to eliminate or control hazards
- Tracking the identified hazards to make sure they’ve been handled correctly
Employers should have a system to keep track of trends. Are the same kinds of accidents happening? Is it with the same equipment, within a certain area, or involving the same people? The only way you can truly address the problem is if you understand it.
A similar analysis should be conducted for individual jobs, especially if you’re in a high-risk industry. While general safety procedures are helpful, getting insight on the specific hazards that each job faces, and ranking jobs based on their risk level, helps you keep your employees safer within their roles.
If you’re uncertain about how to complete a worksite analysis, request a free OSHA consultation visit from your regional OSHA office.
Have the right tools.
Without the proper equipment and protective gear, workers are at higher risk for an accident.
If your employees are working with heavy machinery or hazardous chemicals, they might need gloves, safety glasses, ear plugs, hard hats, and full body suits. If your employees spend a lot of time working outdoors, make sure that they have the proper equipment for sun protection. If you’re in the restaurant industry, keep rubber flooring in the kitchen to prevent slips and falls. If you work in an office environment, make sure you’re following ergonomic standards, like placing computer monitors at eye level and providing chairs that support the lower back.
Don’t just assume that an employee knows how to use their protective gear correctly. An employer should train each worker on:
- When protective gear is necessary
- Type of necessary gear
- How to properly put it on, adjust, wear, and take it off
- The limitations of the equipment
- Proper care, maintenance, and disposal of the equipment
Make sure you know what protection is necessary, and get your workforce the tools they need to be successful and safe.
What Not to Do When Creating a Safety Program
Some companies might have good intentions, but fall flat when it comes to promoting safety. By taking shortcuts to increase productivity, you’re just increasing the risk for an accident (which will lower productivity).
Here are 3 pitfalls that can impair a safety program, and how you can avoid falling into these holes.
Only training new employees, or not training at all.
Realizing that safety training is necessary for new employees is a great step in the right direction, but safety awareness requires more than a one-time training. Safety training applies to all employees, especially as some workers get more comfortable with their role and duties. They might become less attentive to safety procedures and cause an accident. Comfort and familiarity can sometimes be the enemy.
Regular safety training and reminders should be in place for all employees, no matter how long they’ve worked there or how high up they are in the company. Training should also be completed if any procedures or job duties change, or if new equipment is being used.
The only thing worse than only training new employees is not having safety training at all. The Institute for Work & Health found that only 1 in 5 new employees receive safety training. And no, handing someone a manual doesn’t count as training. You need to include demonstrations, be ready to answer any questions, and have an assessment to ensure that the employee knows what they’re doing.
Think back to the beginning of the article – when in doubt, train, train, and train again.
Keeping quiet about unsafe practices.
When you provide training, you should expect your employees to follow the safe practices they’ve been taught. To make sure this is happening, perform regular inspections. Teach your workforce how to look out for unsafe practices, such as not wearing protective equipment, using unsafe lifting techniques, and handling chemicals incorrectly.
While blaming individuals for making mistakes isn’t the answer, you also shouldn’t tolerate unsafe behavior. By emphasizing responsibility and accountability among coworkers, you create a culture of safety, which lowers the risk of accidents and empowers employees to speak up against unsafe practices.
If you want your workforce to report unsafe behavior, develop an anonymous reporting system. This maintains a sense of professionalism and protects employees from feeling called out. Employees are more likely to make the report if they feel like it’s safe to do so.
Rushing to get the job done.
When the end of the day or week is drawing near, it’s tempting to rush through the end of a project. That’s when people get careless. Accidents happen—and those accidents can cost thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation, injury care, raised insurance premiums, and lost productivity.
Although deadlines and bottom lines might be looming over you, it’s not worth rushing employees to complete a job. Even if they’re trying to be safe while rushing, it only takes one little misstep to get hurt. With the culture of safety that you implement, doing things correctly should always come before doing things quickly.
By taking the right precautions, you're protecting your workforce from potential injuries. There are several steps you can take now to start reducing injury risk, like working with a physical therapist to improve ergonomics and teach proper lifting techniches. You can also proactively develop an injury care plan, so even if an accident does occur, you can immediately get your injured worker the care they need.