Safety in the workplace is not just something every business should think about once in a while and it shouldn’t just be on the agenda of the owner, the CEO or the manager. Safety is part of the operational efficiency equation. This means it’s everybody’s job to put safety first, because an efficient operation means healthier profits, happy customers and satisfied employees.
From the “boots on the ground” who get the work done each day to the supervisors responsible for these workers and the managers and owners who sign the paychecks, the only way to create a truly safe work environment is for everyone to be accountable.
1. So, everyone should be accountable. What does this mean?
- Management should empower all employees to have a safety mindset.
- Employees should understand that safety in the workplace is not just the responsibility of management.
Empower, now there’s a scary word. We’re not talking about the episode of the Andy Griffith Show where Barney inadvertently “empowers” Gomer in what’s known as the “Citizen’s Arrest” episode. We’re talking about opening the lines of communication.
2. Management should lay the groundwork:
- Insure that the workplace meets OSHA compliance standards.
- Make regular assessments of conditions and insure any potential hazards are removed from the workplace.
- Insure all equipment is in good working order.
- Where appropriate, make sure Personal Protective Equipment is available.
- Maintain detailed records of illnesses, injuries, and fatalities.
The above items are the bare minimum. Some of the most efficient and safe work environments have leaders who go well beyond the minimum.
3. Going above and beyond:
- Establish an in-house safety program.
- Interest and involvement in a safety program should be very apparent from top management.
- Often senior management can demonstrate their commitment to safety by turning their words into actions. Do this in the form of a formal endorsement of a safety program and the allocation of time and money to an overall safety initiative.
4. Establish a structure:
- A successful safety initiative must have clear program goals and objectives. These goals and objective should be set by management and communicated to all employees.
- Associated with the program should be a safety and health policy statement. A short slogan can accompany this statement. Sometimes something as simple as, “Be Aware Take Care” can keep safety on top of everyone’s mind.
- Who is responsible for what? Make the safety and health assignments to managers, supervisors and other responsible workers.
- Use safety checklists.
- Measure success and accountability.
We all have heard and recall the line from the famous inauguration speech delivered by President John F. Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Where safety is concerned, employees should ask themselves what safety steps they can take to benefit the company, their co-workers, and their future.
The biggest mistake everyone working for a company can make is thinking that safety is solely the responsibility of the management. Managers make the safety rules and expect employees to follow them. Employees feel their only safety responsibility is to follow the rules made by management. It’s a we/they attitude and it’s a false belief that comes with the price of life and limb each day.
5. OSHA basic safety guidelines for employees:
- Follow your safety and health rules
- Wear and use all required PPE correctly
- Follow safe work practices
- Report hazardous conditions to a supervisor
Notice the word basic in the header above. These items should be thought of as just that, basic. Earlier in this article we outlined the minimum standards for workplace managers related to safety, and then we explained the additional steps necessary by management to truly have a successful safety program. The same holds for employees.
6. Employees should demonstrate involvement in their safety program:
- Offer to be involved in incident or injury investigations
- Contribute to the development of safe work rules
- Join the company safety committee
- Step up and help training other coworkers and new employees
- Participate in hazard recognition and reporting
Just as the game of tug of war has an anchor position, so does the quest for safety in the workplace. Management is the anchor in the effort, but everyone must do their part. There are residual benefits to having employees more involved in company matters such as safety. It can be a motivating force and a morale booster when employees feel they are part of the process rather than just soldiers taking orders. In the end, it’s all about everyone “owning” the challenge of safety in the workplace.
LBA University – Your Compliance and Training Resource
LBA University® is happy to answer questions on safety and health in the workplace. Course director Bryan Dixon is an OSHA-certified safety instructor with two decades of industrial, construction and fire safety training experience. Get more information on starting or refreshing a safety program at: http://www.lbagroup.com/lba-university, or contact Bryan Dixon at: email@example.com, 252-317-2135. Keep up with LBA on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/LBAGroup.