As a business leader, you might wonder how to implement or improve the safety program at your organization. This is especially true for small business owners and managers who might question if the time and effort to develop a safety program is worth it.
Regardless of the size of your company, a workplace safety program is always worth it!
An effective workplace safety program serves as a set of defined practices intended to prevent accidents, reduce costs, and engage employees.
In this article, we will explore:
- Why you need a workplace safety program
- The basics of a workplace safety program
- Resources that you can turn to for help
A workplace injury can cause major disruptions.
Every year, millions of people in the United States sustain a serious work-related injury or illness. The foremost issue is the untold personal impact that an injury can cause. Individuals and families can suffer greatly from an injury sustained on the job. Injured employees must seek treatment and may miss significant time from work while recovering.
Likewise, a company can face higher workers’ compensation premiums, medical expenses, legal fees, replacement worker training, and lost productivity.
A workplace injury can have a devastating impact, but many see a safety program as just a formality. But it’s more than that—a safety program that meets your company’s needs and satisfies regulations is good for business and will keep your employees safe.
Here are five essential steps to implementing a workplace safety program.
According to OSHA, you should start small and build from there:
You can begin with a basic program, set simple goals, and grow from there. If you focus on achieving goals, monitoring performance, and evaluating outcomes, your workplace can progress to higher levels of safety and health achievement.
Let’s take a closer look at five critical elements of an effective safety plan.
1) Get management buy-in. Think about it: executives implement the vision for the entire company. From sales goals to budget approvals, all employees look to the top for guidance. Company leaders must signal their commitment to safety. A top-down approach sets the proper expectations.
A clear written policy can help company leaders establish their commitment to safety. It allows the company to communicate that workplace safety is an everyday goal and just as important as sales and productivity. You want to establish a work culture where safety is a requirement, not an afterthought.
2) Engage your employees. Program participation is key. Without employee engagement and a shared understanding, even the most in-depth safety plan won’t work.
How do you encourage employees to engage with and follow a safety plan? Refer to step 1 above! It all starts at the top. Employees are more likely to participate and practice safety at work if company management expresses their commitment to safety and leads by example.
You should also know that engagement is an ongoing process. Here are a few suggestions:
- Provide employees with safety resources, such as training, on a regular basis.
- Make it known that employees can give honest feedback.
- Give positive reinforcement to employees that actively participate.
- Involve employees in every aspect of the program.
- Sit down and formulate safety policies with those on the front line.
When employees feel that their input is welcome, they are far more likely to engage and practice good safety habits.
3) Identify hazards and assess solutions. Failure to identify hazards is a major problem and the cause of many workplace injuries. Be proactive rather than reactive and identify hazards before they cause harm.
Collect and organize new information directly from employees. For example, you might know that the company purchased new equipment. Ask your team questions like: is there a safety manual in place? Is there an emergency procedure in place? Do they have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) required to operate the equipment?
Many hazards are not obvious and may not be included in your current safety plan. Be sure to review safety plans often and update or revise as needed. Note that you can get very in-depth when performing a safety assessment—and you should, especially if your safety program is outdated. OSHA provides many relevant resources to help you conduct a safety review.
4) Provide education and training. Managers, employees, and stakeholders must know the safety program and understand procedures. This knowledge empowers workers to practice safe habits. Training also helps refine policies to increase safety across the board.
Effective training consists of:
- Peer-to-peer training
- On-site training
- Worksite demonstrations
Training should focus on program education, emergency plans, safety goals, and hazard identification procedures.
5) Monitor performance. Once you have a safety program in place, you will want to take a step back and monitor performance.
Start by defining key progress indicators. Be sure to track the total number of injuries on the job. Write a full report of each incident that you can refer to at any time.
Define rules that allow you to track key factors, including employee participation, hazard identification, and timeliness of corrective actions after you identify a hazard.
Whenever possible, monitor performance with indicators that you can measure. Collecting and analyzing data makes it easier to get the full picture. Refer to the OSHA guidelines for more information.
Implementing a workplace safety program can seem challenging, but there are plenty of resources to help you get started.
There are many online resources that can help you implement a safety program. You should first turn to OSHA, the federal agency in charge of occupational safety. OSHA offers comprehensive, step-by-step guidelines detailing how to implement a safety program.
OSHA – Quick Links:
- Safety checklist
- Training and educational resources
- Policy implementation procedures
- Federal laws and regulations
OSHA also offers in-person safety consultations, a no-cost program for small- and medium-sized companies. You can find additional resources at your state’s occupational safety board. For example, companies in California can use Cal/OSHA’s website for guides and information about laws that apply to California businesses. You can also turn to professional employer organizations that work with companies to develop health and safety programs. These organizations may be a good fit for your company if you do not have a dedicated HR department or if you need outside guidance.
Companies that create a culture of safety can expect better outcomes when it comes to employee satisfaction and overall productivity. Take the time to review your existing safety plan. Work with others to identify areas that require improvement. Use online and in-person resources, like those available via OSHA, to set your company on a path toward greater work safety and improved employee health.