Ensuring Workplace Safety For Your Employees
Whether your employees are in warehouses, labs, manufacturing plants, or corporate offices there are significant measures that your organization must take to ensure safety. One of the largest expenses that an employer may be held responsible for are the costs associated with an employee injury - including lost wages, medical bills, lowered productivity as the individual recovers, and in serious cases legal fees associated with a lawsuit.
The size of your organization and employee population may pose some challenges to implementing and monitoring a full proof safety plan, however based on the potential for negative and costly impacts it is worth it to invest in one.
Risks and expenses associated with safety are not only detrimental to the organization’s bottom line, but also may lead to subsequent impacts on employee relations.
Your workforce is comprised of individuals that have demonstrated commitment to your company’s mission and vision, and in return expect favorable work conditions.
Heighten Awareness of Safety Concerns
Safety policies and procedures typically live in an employee handbook, or large booklet that is collecting dust on a file cabinet. During the onboarding process, Human Resources personnel usually spend a few minutes discussing emergency protocol.
Within most organizations, the accountability for ensuring day to day safety is thought to fall into management’s scope of responsibility. While this has some truth to it, individual employees are the ones that must be aware and vigilant about maintaining their own safety.
It is not uncommon for attitudes toward safety issues to reflect a sentiment similar to ‘It won’t happen to me’. There are several ways to refute this:
1. Be transparent and deliberate in sharing the number of actual workplace injuries.
Provide as much detail as possible regarding the injury, while maintaining confidentiality, to demonstrate the fact that safety issues are a true concern.
2. Consider developing a presentation or simulation of the work area with clear identification of all safety concerns.
This will reinforce the fact that there truly are a multitude of dangerous conditions, even within environments that are optimized with safety in mind. Establish and discuss the element of human error; the reality is that the bulk of injuries in the workplace are caused by errors in human judgement, misuse of equipment, and lapses in critical attentiveness.
Identify Safety Goals and Policies
If it has not already been done, clearly identify and publicize organizational policies and goals related to safety. As with any other component of your organization’s strategy, treat this area as a necessary risk mitigation endeavor. Not only should a workplace injury goal be identified, it should be well known amongst the management team, or the individuals within your company that are responsible for this function.
Policies should be clear, concise and readily available to employees within all physical workplace locations, as well as virtually.
Updates should be made regularly, and any modifications to the documents must be shared and discussed with the employee population immediately. Reinforce knowledge and understanding of policies by requiring all employees to acknowledge that they have received insight regarding the safety standards of the organization.
Within this document, ensure that there is a direct reference to the employee’s responsibility for his or her own safety; be deliberate about differentiating between the role of the organization in providing a safe work environment versus the employee’s obligation to maintain it.
Actively Engage Employees in Safety Discussions
Due to the fact that employees are at the focal point of safety and security within the workplace, it is essential to have open, two-way dialogue. Gain insight into employee perspectives regarding the viability of the policies as well as potential safety hazards outside of the scope of management and HR.
- Employees are at the frontline and may not only be aware of potential danger but could also have already thought of some great ideas to avoid or minimize the imminent threat.
- Develop a regular cadence for connecting with employees to further demonstrate the fact that safety policies are created with them in mind.
- Keep the lines of communication open and work to remove any stigmas associated with reporting injuries or safety concerns in the workplace.
While there are objectives in place that drive production levels, and with this comes pressure from the senior leadership level down to the employee population, it is important not to compromise safety while attaining goals.
- Transparency across all levels of the organization is essential.
- Demonstrate the impact on operations, as well as the financial risk, if safety standards are not upheld.
- Regularly analyze workplace injuries as well as all associated costs, in order to provide insight to leadership and management.
If policies are implemented for the very first time, or revised, be sure to measure effectiveness by assessing key factors including number of injuries, associated costs, and employee engagement in safety discussions.
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