Why do you need a workplace safety program?
Developing a workplace safety program can seem like an onerous task, as it can feel like a compliance issue that’s handled behind-the-scenes. We’re here to say, we’re huge fans of workplace safety programs!
We believe they’re critically important to the health of your organization and, more importantly, the health of your workforce. Workplace safety programs protect workers from workplace hazards, help avoid injuries and illness, and create safe and healthy workplace conditions. According to OSHA, businesses spend $173 billion yearly on workplace injuries and illness, and could reduce their costs by 20 – 40% with an effective workplace safety program.
If you’re thinking of starting a workplace safety program, or you want to improve the one you have, here are some strategies to design one that fits your organization’s needs.
Most of us have worked at a company where there were supposedly certain standards or regulations, but they weren’t followed. Maybe they’re not communicated clearly, or maybe they’re simply not enforced, but the message teams get is that safety is not a priority.
A truly effective workplace safety program starts with buy-in. The leadership team should lead by example, complying with the program and encouraging others to do the same. Making safety a core value of your company, part of its written mission or values, is the key to building trust with your workforce and demonstrating that you value their safety and are committed to protecting it.
For every other aspect of your business, you turn to the data – and your workplace safety program is no different! If you’re just starting a workplace safety program, start by talking to your teams and learning more about their experience and where they see risks that may not be obvious to those who aren’t part of the day-to-day operational experience.
Another helpful tip is to collect data in categories; for example, defining risks as workplace hazards, like a trip hazard in a stairwell, as separate from environmental hazards, like chemical exposure, or machinery hazards.
If your goal is to improve on your existing safety program, it is still critical to engage your workforce and get their feedback on where your risks are and what is and is not working. Learning from past issues can help define which areas to prioritize and what resources you can use to support your program. For example, an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) program can help improve workplace safety by preventing incidents such as injuries, illnesses and harmful environmental releases.
Put your program into writing that sets clear and comprehensive expectations around what workplace safety means to your organization. Then, run it by the teams affected for their feedback. Before starting or making big changes to the way you approach your workplace safety program, it’s important to get feedback from the people whose jobs it will affect on a daily basis.
Give employees time while at work to respond. Then, follow up on the suggestions you receive from your teams and thank them for the effort. By keeping the communication open, you’ll receive valuable insight and your teams will see that their insight is valued, too.
Of course, we’re going to say this! Nobody can read a safety document once and retain the nuances for months and years on the job. Not to mention – things change all the time. Setting up high-quality, dynamic training opportunities to teach the basics as you start your workplace safety program, and to keep skills fresh as you improve and build upon it, gives your workforce the opportunity to stay up-to-date and complaint.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on how you integrate workplace safety training. Trends in eLearning, like gamification, VR, and microlearning, can help increase a learner’s retention of the material and give them “real life” application of the information.
The best workplace safety program is never done. As your workforce grows, or you adopt new technologies, your safety program will need to be revised and updated, too. Keep working with your teams to ensure your safety program is reflecting changes within your company and your industry.
One way to encourage feedback is to create a system for anonymous reporting, where employees feel they can highlight issues or opportunities for improvement without fear of being singled out or seen as “tattling.”
Utilizing a checklist application for certain tasks or workstreams can help your teams standardize their practices and ensure consistency and compliance of your workplace safety program guidelines.
Like so many aspects of our working life today, communication is the key. And that remains true when it comes to starting a workplace safety program, or improving the one you already have. An effective workplace safety program is a symbol of your commitment to your teams, to their physical and mental well-being, and is an important pillar of your values as a company.
Vector Solutions proudly serves a broad range of industries with award-winning online education, safety, compliance, and performance optimization suites. Explore how our comprehensive suites – learning, operational readiness, workforce management, and risk management – help organizations create top workplace safety programs.