5 Proactive Steps to Ensure Employee Safety

5 Proactive Steps to Ensure Employee Safety

Posted by Steve Diebold

In 2021, there were still 2.61 million nonfatal workplace safety incidents, despite a slight decrease from the previous year. This shows that even everyday occurrences can cause harm, and ongoing safety measures are crucial.

Proactive safety measures are not just about following regulations; they are a fundamental investment in a company's most valuable asset, its workforce. By implementing preventative steps like hazard identification, safety training programs, and the use of personal protective equipment, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

Proactive safety fosters a culture of awareness and empowers employees to prioritize their well-being, ultimately benefiting both the company's bottom line through reduced downtime and healthcare costs, as well as the employee's physical and mental health.

Ensure Safety and Prevent Tragedy during National Safety Month

Each June, we observe National Safety Month, a dedicated time to raise awareness about the importance of preventing workplace accidents and illnesses. This annual initiative serves as a poignant reminder of the countless individuals who have tragically lost their lives while contributing to the infrastructure and services that underpin modern society. National Safety Month goes beyond mere commemoration; it compels organizations across all industries to re-evaluate and strengthen their safety protocols.

Established regulations are a crucial foundation for workplace safety, but National Safety Month emphasizes the power of proactive measures. One such example lies in the utilization of security seals. In the transportation industry, for instance, the use of tamper evident seals on cargo containers helps deter theft and tampering. This directly reduces the risk of accidents caused by compromised cargo during transport. Security seals, employed across various sectors, serve as a visible reminder of a company's commitment to safety and act as a preventative measure against incidents that could endanger workers and the public.

By actively promoting safety awareness and implementing proactive initiatives like security seals, National Safety Month empowers organizations to foster a culture of safety that transcends regulatory compliance. This unwavering commitment ultimately protects the well-being of employees, safeguards the integrity of operations, and contributes to a safer world for all.

Actionable Steps to Prevent Workplace Accidents

In the ongoing pursuit of a safe and healthy work environment for all American workers, two key organizations play a vital role. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces and sets comprehensive workplace safety standards, while the National Safety Council (NSC) provides invaluable guidance through its safety assessment frameworks. However, ensuring a truly secure work environment requires a proactive approach that goes beyond adherence to regulations.

Here, we outline five essential steps organizations can take to foster a culture of safety that prioritizes risk prevention and continuous improvement:

Step 1. Establish a Safety-First Environment

Establishing a safety culture within an organization is important, where everyone—from seasoned veterans to new hires—prioritize safe work practices. This culture transcends regulations and procedures, creating a shared mentality of risk awareness and prevention.

Building such a culture requires a multi-pronged approach. First, leadership who prioritize and demonstrate their commitment to safety is essential. When leaders visibly prioritize safety by allocating resources, participating in safety inspections, and acknowledging safe behavior, sends a powerful message to all employees. Secondly, open communication is key. Encouraging employees to report safety concerns without fear of reprisal allows for proactive identification and mitigation of hazards. Finally, employee involvement in safety discussions empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own safety and that of their colleagues. This can be achieved through regular safety meetings, committee participation, and incentivizing the submission of safety improvement ideas.

Implementing mentorship programs is one way to cultivate this collaborative environment. Pairing senior workers with young interns and assistants allows for the transfer of not only technical expertise but also a deep understanding of safe work practices. Seasoned employees can instill respect for workplace safety protocols and guide less experienced employees in developing safe working habits from day one on the job. This approach fosters a sense of shared responsibility and creates a culture where everyone feels empowered to speak up about safety concerns.

Step 2: Prioritize Regular Safety Training

While diligent pre-task assessments—thoroughly surveying touch points such as the strength of leashes, crane operator competency, and general equipment condition—are critical in high-risk construction environments, these assessments can only be truly effective when conducted by properly trained personnel. Ongoing safety training for both new and existing employees is paramount to mitigating risk and fostering a culture of safety awareness.

In such environments, essential safety training topics should cover a wide range of areas. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment: Equipping employees with the ability to recognize potential hazards in their work environment empowers them to take preventative measures and avoid accidents.
  • Emergency Procedures: A clear understanding of emergency protocols, including evacuation routes, fire safety procedures, and first-aid response, can make a critical difference in the event of an incident.
  • Proper Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Training should address the selection, inspection, and proper use of PPE relevant to specific tasks, such as harnesses, hard hats, respiratory protection, and high-visibility clothing.

Delivery methods for safety training should be tailored to maximize effectiveness and employee engagement. In-person workshops provide opportunities for interactive learning and hands-on practice. Online modules offer flexibility and accessibility, allowing employees to complete training at their own pace. On-the-job training, when delivered by qualified personnel, allows for the immediate application of learned skills in a real-world context.

Step 3: Conduct Regular Workplace Inspections

Regular workplace inspections, to identify and address potential hazards before they cause incidents, are another proactive measure an organization must prioritize to minimize the risk of accidents. A qualified team, often including safety professionals and representatives from various departments within the organization, should conduct these inspections.

This collaborative approach ensures a thorough examination from diverse perspectives. The frequency of inspections will vary depending on the industry and inherent risks, but regularly scheduled inspections, supplemented by targeted inspections in response to incidents or near-misses, are recommended as best practices.

Strict documentation of inspection findings are also important. This documentation should detail identified hazards, corrective actions taken, and completion timelines. Security labels can play a valuable role in this process by clearly identifying sensitive information and helping to prevent unauthorized access. They can also aid in compliance with regulations and policies regarding data protection.

For example, after a safety inspection identifies a faulty piece of equipment, an adhesive label or a custom barcoded seal can be applied, visually indicating that the equipment is out of service until the repairs are completed. This not only deters unauthorized use but also serves as a documented record of the corrective action taken.

Step 4: Invest in Proper Safety Equipment (PPE)

Equipping employees with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a cornerstone of any safety program. The appropriate PPE, specific to the task at hand, significantly reduces the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. For instance, construction workers might require eye protection, fire-resistant clothing, and heavy-duty gloves, while laboratory personnel may need chemical-resistant aprons, respiratory protection, and safety glasses.

Proper PPE maintenance is equally important. Regular cleaning and inspection ensure the equipment functions effectively and offers the intended level of protection. Worn, damaged, or contaminated PPE should be promptly repaired or replaced to maintain its effectiveness.

Training employees on the proper use of PPE ensures employees are equipped with the knowledge needed to appropriately utilize PPE. This training should cover selection, donning and doffing procedures, care and maintenance, and specific PPE limitations. By ensuring employees understand the importance of PPE and how to use it correctly, organizations can significantly enhance workplace safety.

Step 5: Encourage Open Communication and Reporting

When coworkers feel comfortable sharing information and raising concerns, it empowers proactive identification and mitigation of hazards. Fear, however, can hinder helpful feedback on safety measures. Therefore, it is crucial to create a safe space where employees can report safety concerns without the fear of retaliation.

Encouraging open communication requires a multi-layered approach. One approach would be an anonymous reporting system. This provides a valuable channel for employees to anonymously report safety violations or near-misses. Another approach is to provide employee safety committees to create a platform for open dialogue between workers and management regarding safety concerns and improvement ideas. Furthermore, utilizing emotionally driven content and workplace safety statistics in safety awareness programs can foster engagement and personal investment in safety practices.

American Casting & Manufacturing exemplifies the positive impact prioritizing employee safety can have on a business. As a leading manufacturer of high-quality ferrous castings, AC&M recognizes that a healthy and safe work environment is not just the right thing to do; it's a critical factor in achieving operational excellence.

By implementing the strategies outlined above, from ongoing safety training and communication channels, to proactive hazard identification, and the use of preventative measures like security seals, you can cultivate a work environment where safety is not just a priority but a core value shared by everyone.