According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 2.6 million non-fatal workplace accidents in 2020.
As a business leader, you need to know how to keep your workforce safe. Not only can an accident drain your bottom line, but it can also destroy your reputation. Even a seemingly minor infraction can leave you scrambling to pick up the pieces, regain your financial footing, and earn back customer loyalty.
Thankfully, most of these incidents are avoidable. Today, we’re sharing five important ways you can prevent and manage them where you work.
1. Create a Workplace Safety Plan
You’ve heard the adage: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This also extends to employee safety in the workplace. Without a designated plan in place, your employees might not know the proper protocols to follow or the steps to take when performing a task.
In turn, they could make a wrong move and wind up sick or injured. If you haven’t established one already, take the time to develop a comprehensive Safety and Wellness Plan for your organization. In addition to high-level overviews, be sure to include department-specific information that shows every employee how to stay safe and healthy at work.
The plan should also include information on how employees should report unsafe working conditions to upper management, as well as the workflows to follow. Once a year, review this plan and update it as required. If you make any changes, be sure to communicate them to all of your employees.
Establishing a Workplace Safety Team
Instead of simply writing a guide and calling it a day, assign a health and safety team to the task.
This team should include an officer who’s responsible for overseeing all activities, as well as other employees who are committed to creating and maintaining a safe workspace. The plan should include steps that allow the team to monitor office equipment, work conditions, and employer behaviors to ensure all regulations in the plan are being upheld. This way, they can identify and mitigate hazards before they lead to a bigger problem.
In addition, the team members should also have the authority to correct risky or dangerous behavior if they see it at work. This includes risky behaviors exhibited both intentionally and unintentionally. An intentional risk would be misusing a piece of equipment just to see what happens, while an unintentional one would be pushing yourself and trying a new tool to gain supervisor approval.
2. Keep Your Work Areas Clean
It might go without saying, but you can’t achieve workplace health and safety in an unclean environment. Not only can poor housekeeping cause your offices to appear unkempt, but it can also lead to a range of other issues.
Shared workspaces can be a breeding ground for germs, and failing to clean them properly could allow bacteria and mold to grow and spread. Exposure to these contaminants can lead to longterm sickness, which can cost your company a ton of money in lost work.
Regardless of the specific layout at your office, your hallways should be easily passable, allowing plenty of room for workers to navigate from one section to the next. If necessary, clear any debris or spills that might be in the way of safe navigation. This helps to prevent slips and falls from occurring and encourages an efficient traffic flow from one office to the next.
In addition to cleaning your offices, don’t forget to do the same for any company vehicles or fleets that you own. These vehicles should be free of dangerous messes and debris and in great working condition before an employee gets behind the wheel. Stay up-to-date on all of your recommended maintenance and repairs to keep them running right.
If you’re at the helm of a small business, then you might be the one tackling most of the cleaning yourself. Or, you might hire out the work to an outside firm. Either way, all surfaces should receive a daily clean-up and sanitation, as well as a regular deep clean.
When you commit to this cleaning schedule, you won’t only make your office safer. You can also improve employee morale and improve worker productivity!
3. Train Employees on Safe Behaviors
How well do your employees know your company’s safety plan? If it’s just a section in their employee handbook, then there’s a good chance that they skimmed over it once, put it in the bottom of their desk drawer, and never thought about it again.
Instead of just sending them written instructions and hoping they put them into practice, take the time to schedule training sessions with your team members. During these sessions, you can go over important safety techniques and steps to follow; from the correct personal protective equipment to use in any given situation, to fire evacuation procedures, to the correct use of outdoor barriers when needing to create a safe working environment for staff and visitors.
Each department will likely have its own set of rules and guidelines, so plan to schedule individual training sessions for those teams. For instance, your warehouse workers will need to follow different safety protocols than your sales and marketing team members.
Each team member should receive safety training, even new ones who bring a ton of experience to their role. This might extend the onboarding process a little, but the investment will be worth it. In addition, you should plan to conduct refresher training at least once a year, where you go over the basic steps and review any changes you’ve made.
A Note on Safe Lifting
One of the most important practices to implement? If your employees are responsible for lifting any type of heavy materials, train them on the proper way to lift.
This includes lifting from a position of power and keeping the load close as they rise either manually or with the help of tools like ballymore lifts. Remind them to keep a staggered stance to maintain their balance, and avoid twisting their back while lifting. Strain injuries can easily result due to improper lifting and handling, so this is an important topic to cover.
4. Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Healthcare workers aren’t the only employees who should use PPE. There are many other industries where workers are exposed to hazardous elements and need to protect their bodies, for instance, companies that work with harmful gases and substances should provide employees with gear and equipment, such as a carbon monoxide respirator.
In addition to face masks, other types of PPE include:
- Safety helmets
- Eye protection
- Safety footwear
- Safety harnesses
- Highly visible clothing
This gear helps to protect your employees at every turn. Even if you’ve already applied safe systems of work, there are still many hazards that could affect your workforce. These include:
- Lung damage from breathing contaminated air
- Skin damage from coming into contact with harmful materials
- Head and limb damage from falling objects
- Eye damage from liquid splashes or flying particles
- Bodily damage from exposure to extreme heat or cold
There are different kinds of PPE to browse, and you can find equipment to protect against all of the accidents listed above. To add an extra layer of protection to your employee coverage, you can also consider Key Man insurance. This type of coverage protects your company against the risks and potential losses you could face if a critical member of your workforce fell ill or experienced an injury.
If you work in certain industries, the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires you to keep PPE readily available to all employees. You can check out OSHA standards to determine what you need.
5. Develop Control Measures
As soon as you know about a particular workplace hazard, put steps in place to correct it. Instead of blindly going through and removing any potential obstacle, you can establish control measures in varying degrees.
For example, your first line of defense might be to protect against the hazard by requiring affected employees to wear PPE. If that isn’t enough, you can examine your workflows and see if any business processes need to be changed to make the work safer. Also don’t forget to check out lithium battery fire extinguishers with STOREMASTA to ensure your workplace has the proper tool to fight fire.
From there, you would continue to enforce stricter and stricter controls. You could remove the employee from the hazard, replace the hazard with a safer alternative, or eventually remove it altogether.
Keep in mind that some hazardous materials and equipment might be necessary for your company to perform its job. You can’t exactly toss every machine at your manufacturing plant because it could pose a threat to your team members. Instead, train them on how to use it, give them the right safety gear, and only isolate the hazard if necessary.
Prevent Workplace Accidents and Keep Your Teams Safe
Sometimes, workplace accidents happen that are totally outside of anyone’s realm of control. However, you can prevent most of them from occurring by establishing clear safety protocols and making sure your teams know how to follow them.
In addition to creating a formal safety and wellness plan, train your staff members on the proper ways to implement each procedure. Create clear lines of communication for reporting violations, and develop control measures to keep hazards in check.
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