A single safety incident can spell the end of a successful business. If you have employees who work in potentially dangerous situations, it’s critical to consider every way to keep them safe. Laws can protect you in some circumstances, but ultimately, every step you can take toward a safer workplace protects your investment. Also, relying on the law alone for protection doesn’t make you a considerate leader.
A much better solution would be to give employees adequate training and equipment and promote a culture of safety in the workplace, so your employees look out for one another. The good news is that doing these things is quite straightforward. Here’s how.
Understand Safety Laws and Regulations
Yes, the goal is to go above and beyond the bare minimum when it comes to safety. However, in many industries, there are thoroughly developed laws that define the ways you have to provide a safe workplace. The best-known example of this might be the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA safety requirements make manual labor workplaces safer. They include things like clearly labeled exit paths from indoor environments, the use of personal protective equipment and guarding components on powered machine tools.
When planning your business’ workspace, it’s smart to consider all OSHA regulations that come into play. There are broader OSHA rules, as well as standards that apply to industry-specific applications. You might be surprised by how easy it is to spot a blatant OSHA violation in many manual labor workplaces. A failed inspection could lead to fines for your company. An accident could lead to worse. So take advantage of the work others have done, and design your workplace to be compliant to this and any other standards that apply in your industry.
Promote a Safety Culture
It’s easy to tell your customers “safety comes first” at your company. Living that value takes some work, though. By putting your safety policies and procedures front and center and recognizing employees who exemplify good safety practice in the workplace, you can make working safe an intrinsic part of your company.
Building culture takes time, so introduce your emphasis on safety early in your employees’ careers. Day one is a good time. During onboarding, go over the importance of safety at your company, and explain some of the straightforward ways your team works safely. Have clearly defined safety responsibilities, assign safety-specific roles to individuals and publicize them. For example, one person might be responsible for “sweeping” the workspace and tallying their teammates after an earthquake drill.
Hold people accountable for their safety and the safety of others. If an employee observes something unsafe about the workplace, or sees a co-worker doing something risky, they should know how to report it. They should also understand how to get help from HR if they have questions about medical issues, and be familiar with what resources are available for them.
Find time to do some trust-building exercises so people won’t shy away from raising these issues with their co-workers, even when it’s difficult. Every employee should feel confident calling out unsafe behavior or reporting workplace hazards when they notice them. Doing so might be a challenge for less vocal employees, so you must emphasize it’s for the good of the entire company. If someone has a breakthrough idea to improve workplace safety, recognize them!
Clearly Label Workplace Hazards and Safety Measures
Would you stop at an intersection instinctively if there wasn’t a big red sign there? Time and again, society has proven the value of proper labeling. Even when you think something is obvious, a bold, visual reminder helps ensure no one gets confused, makes a mistake or commits an error out of ignorance.
Things like safety exits, toxic materials, heavy machinery and operating instructions need clear, easy-to-read labeling for the safety of your workers. In some cases, labels should be written text. In other cases, pictographs make a better medium— for example, where there might be the risk of something falling from overhead. Color theory can be helpful. Green is generally positive— it means “go,” compared to red for “stop.” You can use many of the associations you make everyday spotting road signs in the workplace to ensure the safety of your workforce.
Train and Test
Not only is effective training one of the best ways to ensure people work safely, but it also gives you a chance to observe someone’s work habits and coach them on potentially unsafe behavior. If your company doesn’t have a clearly defined training regimen in place, it’s time to create one. New workers aren’t the only ones who need training. As employees advance in your organization, they will likely need guidance as to how to execute their new roles. That might involve tasks where safety risks are present.
Testing an employee’s knowledge of their role and safety procedures will help you identify future talent in new employees, coach people out of bad habits and observe the way new personnel interact with their trainers and co-workers. It will also provide valuable feedback for your company because rookies will bring a fresh set of eyes to the workplace you’ve become all too familiar with.
At first, it might seem like the obsession with safe practices is more trouble than it’s worth. We promise you it’s not. Workplace safety has drastically improved in the last hundred years because of programs like yours, and the result is happier, more efficient workers. An injured employee can’t do much to help meet your bottom line. So get behind the goal of creating a safe, productive workplace. It’s the best choice for everyone at your company.