How to Create an Effective Workplace Safety Program
Workplace safety should be a priority for any company. But keep in mind that prioritizing safety and effectively implementing a workplace safety program are two different things. While many workplace safety programs are well-meaning, they often fall short of being truly effective.
Why? Most safety programs use a linear approach to workplace safety. Such an approach only prioritizes one side of safety (safety guidelines) while neglecting the other side (people).
A better approach considers elements across the entire workplace safety spectrum. Combining the following factors results in an effective workplace safety program:
Let’s look at ten OSHA-recommended steps that include these factors, and which can help leaders create an effective workplace safety program.
Integrate safety into core values
Company core values guide how and why a company exists. OSHA recommends integrating workplace safety into existing core values. One way to do this is to communicate the company’s commitment to worker safety. Such an undertaking should be put in writing and actively championed by company leadership.
Add safety to daily routines
Nothing diminishes a workplace safety program more than neglect, either by leadership or through poor routines. Adding safety to daily routines means leading from the front in implementing a workplace safety program. Keep workplace safety front and center throughout the day, both in routines and conversations with your workers.
Have a simple reporting system
A simple reporting system can act as a cornerstone for your workplace safety program. Instead of asking workers to talk to a supervisor about an incident, implement a tool where workers can file reports anonymously. Doing this opens the door to frictionless reporting, especially on near-miss incidents that often go unreported.
Train workers on safety
This video lets workers know why safety training is important.
Workplace safety is like any other skill; it must be taught and learned. Training workers instills critical skills crucial to workplace safety. The knowledge acquired helps workers identify and control workplace hazards. Training also helps workers know how to report incidents, how to respond during an incident, and the importance of reporting incidents, especially near misses.
Conduct regular worker-led inspections
Worker-led inspections help in two ways. First, workers get a sense of ownership and responsibility for ensuring safety. Having workers lead reviews also helps establish confidence that their definition of safety counts. Second, it gives leaders an on-the-ground view of safety. In many cases, workers will recommend hazard control measures that management cannot come up with independently.
Crowdsource hazard control ideas
Following on the previous recommendation, workers will always have ideas on how to boost workplace safety. An effective workplace safety program recognizes this. Crowdsourcing safety ideas from workers is a fast and easy way to find and plug any safety gaps. You can take this a step further by offering workplace safety incentives.
Champion worker-led implementation and evaluation of measures
As ideas trickle in, ask workers to choose, implement, and evaluate the ideas they feel would be most effective. Since workers can best determine the usefulness of an idea, this approach acts as a natural filter for the best ideas. As workers see their ideas coming to life, they will gain greater motivation to submit even more ideas. This process will kick off a virtuous cycle that leads to enhanced safety.
Have a well-documented emergency plan in place
Emergencies will occur. While it’s difficult to anticipate the nature of the emergency, you should have a plan in place. Collaborate with workers to identify potential emergencies and document specific instructions on what to do in the event of each happening. Make sure to display the plan visibly across your business premises.
Consult with workers before rolling out significant changes
Any changes to the work environment, including equipment, process, or structural changes, can impact worker safety and health. Always discuss any significant changes with workers to understand the health and safety implications. Although such changes may be unavoidable, involving workers helps them understand and anticipate any new hazards that the changes may introduce.
Embrace continuous improvement
Your workplace safety program should be a living process that continually improves and evolves with your workplace practices. Make it a point to have regular status meetings with workers to review and update workplace safety guidelines. The best way to do this is to structure each session as a safety meeting that welcomes feedback, ideas, and critiques that promote worker health and safety.
An effective workplace safety program may focus on workers, but leadership also plays an essential role. None of the steps above will work without leadership support. As a safety leader, using these tools will help you create an effective and sustainable workplace safety program. It will also help you involve your workers, resulting in a unified effort to beat workplace hazards and ensure everyone’s safety.
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