How to Maximize Workplace Safety

Accidents will happen, at least that what Elvis Costello sang. It’s true, though: no matter how careful you are or how well you prepare, there will always be some percentage of slips, falls, and other different types of accidents at work that reduce workplace safety.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t minimize these accidents by taking some precautions, however. Not only can you, but you absolutely should. Want some numbers to reinforce that? Check these out, from the website of the American Society of Safety Engineers.

  • The total direct payments to workers for the worst injuries and illnesses in 2006 was $48.6 billion
  • Lost productivity from these accidents and illnesses costs companies $60 billion each year

I’ll stop there. That’s billions with a “B”, boys and girls, and you don’t want your company to have any sizable slice of those payments or losses. So what can you do? Some fairly simple things, actually.

Create a Company Safety Manual

It’s a tedious thing, I know, especially if you are a very small organization. The impact of not having one can’t be overstated however. You don’t want to leave a huge grey area for workplace safety if and when anything happens that could potentially fall back on the business in the form of a lawsuit.

Assign a Workplace Safety Coordinator

This doesn’t have to be an exclusive position of course, nor should it be in a small business. However, if you are going to put policies in place and enforce them you do need someone to take accountability for that happening. Usually the HR person is a good fit, if you have one.

Whoever is in charge should be responsible for communicating the company’s safety procedures to the other employees and ensuring that they are known. They should also be in charge of weekly or monthly checks of things like fire extinguishers, bad electrical outlets, stuck doors, poorly stacked boxes in an inventory room, etc.

The coordinator doesn’t have to do all this themselves of course, that’s why they are a coordinator. They will shoulder the burden of making sure they get done by whoever the tasks are assigned to though.

Have the Basic Tools You Need Available

It should go without saying that standing on a chair to change out a bulb in the ceiling fixture is a no-no, but you wouldn’t believe how often it happens. One slip, and there could be big trouble from OSHA, the employee’s lawyer, or both. Make sure that you have things like a ladder, a first-aid kit, and other basic necessities available for those times you may or will need them. An ounce of prevention…

Keep Incident Reports

You track everything that happens in the company anyway, right? Please don’t answer that with a “no”. Things like Key Performance Indicators, sales records, profit and loss statements, and more should all be standard operating procedure for any good business.

There’s a reason you keep these records (other than because the banks want to see them): you learn from them how to get better at things. The same goes for incident reports. The purpose is not to punish the employee for not following some procedure, it’s to make sure that it doesn’t happen again by learning from them.

Hold Periodic Safety Trainings

Again, this doesn’t have to be a weekly thing, but you should probably hold a meeting annually or semi-annually just to make sure you are emphasizing the importance of workplace safety. Any new hires should automatically be required to have safety training in their orientation.

Don’t Assume

If there is a hazard somewhere, make sure that it gets clearly marked immediately. Never assume that everyone knows not to use the outlet on the far wall because it needs to be replaced. Make a small sign and put it where there is no doubt left about whether or not it should be used. After all, Johnny’s been on vacation for two weeks, remember?

What tips do you have that we can add to this list in order to make workers safer?

Wally Peterson is a freelance writer and aspiring beach bum with a face made for blogging. He lives 60 seconds from the sand (walking time) on the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.


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