Wed, Aug 10, 2022
All organizations have a duty of care towards their employees, and the primary goal of a workplace safety program is to protect all workers.
Why is workplace safety important? A thorough analysis of workplace conditions and determining the level of protection required is paramount in creating and implementing a workplace safety program.
Workplace safety programs vary and are never exactly the same as different industries require a higher degree of protection based on their level of risk. For example, people working underground in the mining industry require a higher degree of protection than a person in an administrative job working in an office environment.
With a solid safety directive in place, this helps reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in providing guidelines that direct procedures to make all work environments safer through the identification, evaluation, prevention, and control of hazards.
Here are the steps to developing a workplace safety program that is designed specifically for your industry and workforce (whether it’s contractors, employees, or a mix of both):
1. Make the commitment to safety
Demonstrate your company's commitment to safety by getting management buy-in and employee involvement and make it a company-wide value to spread awareness and create a positive safety culture.
Key to this is establishing a health and safety committee or a designated health and safety representative whose roles are essential for the program to be effective. At all levels, define employee and employer responsibilities on all operational levels from senior management and leadership, line managers, all other employees, the health and safety committee, and the health and safety representative.
2. Learn your industry requirements
Research the requirements in place for your specific industry through available resources with professional bodies and government agencies to comply with health and safety legislation. You can also contact other professionals from your network who have already implemented a workplace safety program. It is also advisable to hire a consultant with the industry knowledge and experience and document all requirements and advice.
3. Identify and assess workplace hazards and risks
Carry out workplace inspections to properly assess specific hazards and risks. Hazards are the main cause of occupational health and safety problems, and can be environmental, inappropriate management systems and procedures, the use of chemicals, and other unsafe elements. When identified, the hazard’s level of significance can then be assessed to prioritize the risk level for the hazard’s elimination or control.
The following procedures should be established and undertaken:
Safety audits – Evaluate the effectiveness of the organization’s health and safety system.
Workplace inspections – Determine what hazards exist.
Accident and incident investigations – Research and report on incidents to identify the cause and take preventative measures.
Injury and illness records/reports – Identify overlooked hazards and prevent future incidents.
4. Implement a reporting system
Develop and communicate simple procedures to help ensure employee compliance that enable workers to report any injuries, illnesses, incidents, hazards, or workplace health and safety concerns.
5. Develop and implement a safety training strategy
Once the workplace safety guidelines have been created, get all the employees on board. All employees should be required to go through initial training to understand safety policies and procedures. Workers who are educated about safety and the work environment are more productive and less likely to get injured.
There are many ways to train employees, including online training sessions they can take on their own time and instructor-led group training. Remember that an effective training programs uses several delivery methods to help ensure efficiency, effectiveness, and retention.
Training should be ongoing, always documented, and refined over time. Types of safety training can include:
- Induction training
- Supervisor and management training
- On the job training
- Specific hazard training
- Equipment training
- Skills and procedure training
- Emergency procedure training
- First aid training
6. Implement, monitor, and evaluate
No matter how minor, every accident should be investigated to prevent future incidents and mitigate risk for safer solutions in the future.
Since workplace safety programs are constantly evolving, regular training, safety meetings, analysis, inspections, and evaluations are critical for the program to remain effective based on the changing needs and requirements. Relevant safety data should be reviewed at regular intervals. Records should be maintained and organized so key safety metrics can be measured to set a baseline and improve over time.
Safety standards should be established and need to be trackable and measurable incorporating both lagging and leading indicators. Incident data is a lagging indicator that allows employers to review past events and implement new protocols. Leading indicators can help predict issues before they happen. These can be training completion records and inspection data.
Benefits of safety programs
Establishing a workplace safety program provides the following benefits:
- Reduced risk of tragic and costly injuries and illness
- Improved workplace health, safety, and wellness
- Lower insurance premiums
- Improved staff relations and morale
- Reduced costs associated with accidents and incidents – wage losses, potential shut downs/productivity losses, legal fees, medical expenses, employee replacement and training, equipment repairs, higher premiums, regulatory fines and fees, reputational damage
- Increased productivity
- Improved company culture