Workplace safety is essential for business sustenance. It not only prevents illnesses, injuries, and deaths at/due to work but also saves employers from incurring huge costs in terms of illness/injury costs, equipment/machinery repairs, absenteeism, low productivity, compromised work quality, and more.
A safe workplace also helps in building employee morale and faith in the organization, thereby reducing attrition rates. Effective safety and health programs help businesses keep workers motivated and engaged, prevent workplace accidents/illnesses and limit related costs, improve employee productivity, ensure compliance with applicable laws and standards, and enhance business social responsibility goals.
The easiest way to do this is by ensuring compliance with applicable OSHA standards. OSHA has defined certain employer responsibilities that revolve around ensuring compliance with the OSH Act. These include providing the necessary tools, equipment, training, and other resources to enable workers to safely perform their duties. Employers should also identify, respect, and promote workers’ rights. They constantly need to update, set up, communicate operating procedures, and adopt a safety and health program. Using workplace safety signs, posters, labels and/or color codes to communicate potential hazards is also identified as one of the employer responsibilities.
Workplace safety can be further reinforced with the help of measures such as establishing emergency procedures, ensuring proper and timely maintenance of tools and equipment, and providing employees with ergonomically designed furniture.
Adopting and implementing the practices advocated by organizations such OSHA may be the most crucial element of a safe workplace but it is not the only one. A well-organized workplace with logically created and placed workstations and equipment, along with timely cleaning and regular maintenance not only improve efficiency but also prevent accidents.
To enhance workplace safety, consider creating a worker safety committee that can identify safety risks, take steps to remove/mitigate those risks, and make recommendations to the management for a safer workplace. Managers should also be required to regularly visit and assess the production/operations floor and speak to the workers to identify any safety concerns. This is popularly known as Gemba Walk.
Visual communication tools such as labels, markings, decals, and safety signs work rather well in alerting workers about potential hazards and communicating safe practices, thereby preventing workplace accidents and injuries. You may also conduct a job safety analysis, a job-specific study to identify safety hazards and make the required improvements.
All your workplace safety measures can go in vain if your employees ignore them or take them lightly. It, therefore, is necessary to frequently remind employees of safe work practices and the consequences of ignoring potential hazards.
One way to do this is by conducting safety trainings from time to time. To ensure such trainings do not end up becoming extended breaks and your employees do pay attention, make an effort to make the training more interactive and engaging. You may employ storytelling and humor as long as it conveys the message and encourages active participation with the help of healthy discussions and demonstrations.
Organizing games, competitions, and activities around workplace safety is another fun way to communicate the importance of safety and encourage employees to contribute. Inducing creativity in your safety program can make the workplace a more pleasurable ground for employees. Think out of the box - say, a funny photo collage of workplace safety errors, or a safety olympics event.
Small and medium-sized businesses may refer to OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program and get confidential safety and occupational health advice for free. This is in no way similar to the inspections conducted by OSHA but is designed to help businesses identify potential workplace hazards and improve existing programs.
You may also request help from the organization’s Area Offices who provide advice, education, and assistance to businesses and stakeholders.