Work injury costs in 2018 totaled $170.8 billion. Keeping employees safe on the job is a top priority for any employer. Not only are injuries costly in terms of both money and productivity, but they can also damage your brand image both within your company and in public.
Improving employee safety can be frustrating for leaders because they feel they only have so much control over staff. However, when you incentivize safe behavior the right way, you’ll have everyone on board.
No one wants to get hurt at work. The key is connecting safety procedures to specific risks so your staff understands the purpose of the rules. Here are some tips for assessing and improving employee safety.
Know Your Risks
Every workplace has injury risks. In a construction site or warehouse, these risks are more obvious and easy to list. However, even offices have hazards, ranging from cords on the floor to repetitive strain to migraines due to lighting.
The first step to any safety plan is to make sure you know the challenges your employees face each day. Brainstorm a list with fellow leaders and get input from your staff — after all, they know best what dangers they deal with.
Make sure you consider the possibility of slip-and-falls, which are among the most common types of employee injuries. Being hit by objects or equipment and improper lifting are also among the top three.
Finally, assess the materials your employees use regularly. Take steps to remove or reduce exposure to any known cause of harm, such as asbestos. Preventing long-term illness is a key safety measure for all companies.
Train Employees in Safety Techniques
Training employees in safety rules is essential but can also feel like an uphill battle. Floor supervisors may get frustrated by staff that only follow the rules — such as wearing protective equipment — when someone is watching.
Helping your employees understand how serious workplace injuries can be is a vital part of building buy-in. Show them the types of accidents that can happen, along with the consequences. You can also ask them for input on the best way to prevent these accidents.
When your workers understand the direct connection between a safety procedure and their personal well-being, they are much more likely to follow it. This creates a safer workplace for everyone.
Take Advantage of New Technologies
While it’s likely nothing will replace wearing hard hats and high-visibility vests, there are many advances in technology that can make a difference in workplace safety.
Consider immersive VR training to help workers understand their specific jobs and the safety measure you require. This can give both trainers and new employees confidence because making a mistake won’t injure them or damage expensive equipment. VR also provides a highly realistic environment that helps people stay focused during training.
You can also maximize safety when you use cutting-edge safety equipment, such as more comfortable safety clothing to high visibility spill kits to advanced fall-protection machinery.
Keep Up with Emerging Risks
Often, the risks your employees face will remain similar for years at a time, and then one day a new hazard arrives. In 2020, with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we’re all facing a new peril. No workplace, business, or home is unaffected.
To care for employees during this outbreak or any future illness issue, take steps to keep your employees healthy. Encourage social distancing and provide personal protective equipment such as face shields and masks. If anyone is ill, encourage them to stay home so they don’t make others sick.
Keeping employees safe during COVID-19 also means keeping communication lines open and clear so your staff understands the latest developments and how you’re reacting. Discuss the importance of safety and cleanliness and enforce those standards.
Everyone has a loved one or friend who is compromised and at higher risk for COVID-19 complications, and employees have health concerns themselves as well. When everyone works together, the spread of COVID-19 can be minimized until a vaccine or long-term solution is found.
Workplace Safety Benefits Everyone
Employers know that enforcing safety practices helps keep operations flowing smoothly. You don’t want to face downtime from broken equipment, injured people, or a serious liability lawsuit. At the same time, you care about your staff and you don’t want anyone to be injured. Having happy, productive workers that go home safely to their families after every shift is the goal.
Sometimes employees are slow to buy in. They may think an accident can’t happen to them, or that specific PPE isn’t necessary. Proper training and education can help them realize the importance of safety procedures, and you can reward staff for following through. Having awards for injury-free days, for instance, can encourage everyone to work more cautiously.
Finally, allow your employees to help craft your workplace safety plan. Not only do they know the hazards better than you might, but they know the best ways to avoid risk. When employees have a say in creating a process, they’re much more likely to follow through.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to go home healthy!
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor