19 Mar 2018

Workplace Safety Is About More Than Rules

Business owners unconvinced about the importance of workplace safety programs might wish to peruse the Bureau of Labor Statistics about the numbers of employees injured, or worse, killed on the job.

An appetizer-sized view of what can be found includes the following statistics from 2016:

  • Total recordable cases: 2,857,400
  • Median days away from work: 8
  • Total fatal injuries: 5,190
  • Homicides: 500

If keeping employees safe and capable of working isn’t enough of an incentive, keep in mind that training workers about staying safe “keeps worker compensation costs down, which contributes to the company’s bottom line,” says Dianne Grote Adams, owner and president of Safex, Inc., in Westerville, Ohio. Her 25-year-old company provides EHS training and services to businesses of all sizes.

Not only do safe employees contribute to a company’s success, strong workplace safety training programs “increase employee productivity and satisfaction,” says Grote Adams.

As a bonafide expert in the industry, Grote Adams offers suggestions for implementing effective worker safety plans. They include:

  • Include employees in educating one another about safety and the implementation of the program
  • Delineate clear responsibilities, which establishes accountability
  • Committing the plan to writing increases the likelihood people know and understand their roles and responsibilities.

Pitfalls to avoid

As with anything, there are mistakes to avoid when implementing an appropriate workplace safety program. According to Grote Adams, one of the most important is “thinking one person is responsible for safety and that they can do it all.” In other words, workplace safety is something that benefits all employees, so it is the company’s responsibility to ensure each staffer feels empowered to respond appropriately should an emergency arise.

Another huge error companies make when establishing and practicing workplace safety is emphasizing the “rules” aspect of the plan. “Explain how safety guidelines are not just a way for the company to dictate employee behavior but a way for employees to return home safely to their families,” says Grote Adams.

It’s also a mistake to simply create a safety plan but never revisit it. Technological advancements and staff turnover are just two reasons to ensure the program is reviewed from time to time.

Just how often is dependent on the size of the business and how much change has occurred within the organization. Grote Adams says don’t let it go longer than 18 months.

“The more dynamic an organization, the more often” the plan should be reconsidered, says Grote Adams. That means if a business starts a host of new processes and products, or hires a bevy of new staffers, its safety plan should be tweaked accordingly.

“A safety program is part of a company’s day-to-day operations, just like quality control and production,” says Grote Adams.

Tami Kamin Meyer