If you’re an HR professional or a small business owner, it’s essential you make workplace safety a priority. You will need to develop a thorough workplace safety program whether you have a high-risk work environment or not. Fortunately, it’s not as daunting a task as you might imagine. Here are six basic steps to design and implement an effective workplace safety program.
- Assess risks and hazards in your workplace
You can’t solve a problem you haven’t identified yet. So, walk around your company to assess potential risks and hazards.
- Remember hazards are structural problems, like the design of the building, the layout of machinery, and other tangible things while risks relate to environmental concerns, such as polluted water or poor air quality.
- After assessing all potential risks and hazards, carefully evaluate how dangerous each one might be.
- Besides walking around and noticing things, also talk to people who work in specific departments.
- Evaluation will help you prioritize the most critical things to guard against.
- After inspecting the workplace and talking to the people who work in an area, also do a company survey. Ask employees to send in their anonymous concerns about risks in their designated areas. Since employees have firsthand experience, they may be able to add useful insights.
- Launch an online safety program
Your assessment of workplace risks should not be simply restricted to physical environments. You should also consider online risks and develop online safety training. Online training is especially important for remote workplaces or if your business has numerous locations and in-person training is not practical or cost effective.
Here are some things to consider when you work on developing an online safety training plan:
- Regulatory requirements
- Effective learning methods
- Network safety
- System integration
Since launching an online safety program can be complicated, it’s usually more cost-effective and efficient to hire an educational service provider with extensive experience rather than try to create such a program in-house.
A service provider will be aware of all the complex regulatory requirements and be in a better position to ensure legal compliance. They will also be able to create engaging interactive courses that use audio, video, text, and images to improve a learner’s comprehension.
- Publicly commit to workplace safety
The entire company must support workplace safety. It has to become part of corporate values, which dictate corporate culture. Asking employees to watch and pass Computer Based Safety training without providing the necessary tools to maintain a safe environment, defeats the purpose.
It’s also important to train managers on how to write reports and help employees follow protocol for things like dangerous spills.
What does company-wide commitment look like?
Here are three hypothetical examples:
- The company’s mission statement has a clause about the value of safety in the workplace.
- Safety values are expressed both in words and in actions.
- Beyond encouraging employees to always abide by safety standards, managers and supervisors investigate the reason for all workplace accidents.
- Put it in writing
Besides creating a manual that outlines a company’s safety program, safety regulations should be included in other written materials as well. For instance, it should be in the company’s business plans, in employee’s job descriptions, in training booklets, and in publicly posted signs near hazardous areas. Putting safety values and guidelines in writing will reduce the risk of verbal misinterpretation and prevent ambivalence about when to follow safety guidelines.
- Ensure ongoing employee education
Your company’s safety program will only be as effective as your employee training schedule. Besides formal employee education using computer-based training (CBTs) and in person classroom training, also include on the job training.
The best time to train employees is after the safety program has been launched, when new people are hired, or when employees have been transferred from another division or department. Training should also be done when the company changes any procedures.
This could happen after buying new equipment or machines, identifying new hazards, or changing locations. Finally, a company should have periodic refresher courses for all employees.
- Re-evaluate workplace safety guidelines after an accident
Although a company can get guidelines from OSHA and other sources, many guidelines will be unique to the company. All workplace accidents need to be investigated, even minor ones, to understand if the current guidelines failed to work or if new guidelines need to be added.
Accidents provide negative feedback about safety guidelines, identifying what didn’t work or what needs to be changed. Sometimes changes are small. Perhaps an employee did not notice the cautionary signage on the wall. In this case, the signs should be moved to a more visible location. At other times, they can be large.
Perhaps the technical language used in a safety manual was not comprehensible. In this case, the entire manual may have to be rewritten in plain English. In conclusion, a workplace safety program will protect your company’s financial assets, as well as keep employees from accidents.