Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees. But in addition to a legal obligation, employers also can cut costs and save money by investing in a safety program and a safe workplace, and by getting employees to focus on maintaining a safe work environment and performing work safely.
One important and necessary element in creating and maintaining a safe work environment is a well-thought-out safety program which employees respect and follow. And driving a successful safety program are two significant facts:
- People — everyone in the workplace from the top CEO to the new, entry-level employees — are the major cause of work-related accidents and injuries.
- Each person in the workplace — from the CEO or owner to the teenaged part-timer — has a responsibility to set up safe working conditions and make them work.
Here are eight features important to getting the people in your workplace involved in a successful safety program:
- Let the employer and management lead. The top leaders, the owners, executives and top management team take the lead in setting the safety policy. Their behavior demonstrates a positive attitude toward the policy. Their actions stress the importance of the policy.
- Set up a safety committee and keep it going. Assign employees to take an active role in a safety committee. Give the safety committee the responsibility to take the lead in promoting safety, investigating accidents and injuries, in identifying causes of accidents and injuries, and in recommending ways to prevent future accidents and injuries.
- Assign responsibility. Each person in the workplace is given responsibility for safety. Each person is assigned safety and safe work practices as a job responsibility, just as they are assigned other job responsibilities.
- Identify hazards and control to prevent them. Identify the common and most likely hazards in your workplace. Develop methods and procedures to avoid or eliminate the hazards. Train employees in the proper steps and methods to prevent them.
- Do ongoing safety training. Make the time to train supervisors and employees in the hazards involved in the workplace, how to perform their work safely, and how to operate equipment safely. Enforce the use of personal protective equipment. Enforce working with safe work procedures. Don’t do safety training just once, repeat safety training regularly.
- Put a reporting system in place. Require employees to report all work-related accidents and injuries, even the slightest. Even require employees to report near-misses (incidents in which an accident or injury came very close to happening) they witness or are involved in.
- keep records and use the information. Maintain records of all work-related accidents, injuries, and near-misses. Use the information in these records to look for accident, injury, and near-miss patterns. Apply this knowledge to developing or modifying safety procedures.
- Be ready with first aid and medical assistance. Plan for an organized medical and first aid response to accidents and injuries. Train employees to give first aid.
One of the most effective ways to identify safety hazards in your workplace is to have employees conduct self-inspections. The only way to be certain about safe conditions in your workplace is to take a look at them. What’s involved in doing a safety self-inspection?
- Develop a checklist of all the dangers and potentially hazardous items, conditions, and functions associated with your business and the work done there. Involve employees in making this list. Use your safety committee to make these inspections. Rotate all employees, including supervisors and managers, through the safety committee so, over time, everyone gets experience and input in looking for and identifying safety hazards.
- Make inspections monthly or quarterly. Compile the findings and look for patterns. Ask questions. Is a particular area or tool consistently having safety-related problems? Have accident investigation patterns matched safety inspection patterns? Once you determine where the problems are you can take immediate action to control the hazards.
Here are examples of safety violations and hazards to look for in a walk-through:
- Employees are operating equipment without authorization.
- Poor housekeeping.
- Equipment with safety guards removed or made ineffective.
- Machinery operating at unsafe speeds.
- Employees engaged in horseplay and pranks.
- Employees jumping on or off of moving vehicles, riding loads, or walking in transit ways.
- Defective equipment or tools used on the job.
- Failure to use protective equipment or follow rules for safe handling of equipment.