10 Steps to Effective Safety Programs
- Find an Evangelist.This is critically important. While the steps to follow are not difficult, you do need someone to make it happen and manage it. You need someone in your company that truly believes in making the workplace safe for all employees, can do some research, learn quickly, has the ability to manage multiple projects, and can obtain buy-in from all levels. This might be an existing employee that has shown promise or you may need to bring in someone else. Not every company has someone like this in their employ, but you may and not even know it. Take a good look at your employees, the things they do and what sort of ideas they have had in the past. Start asking around and you might just find someone on staff that can be your Evangelist. If not, there are plenty of very good consultants out there that you might use. I would suggest getting one person to work on contract whose only responsibility will be your new safety project.
- Implement an ISMS. This is an Integrated Safety Management System. A lot of words for a means of making things happen and controlling them. Putting an ISMS in place is not really scary or difficult, it just sounds like it. The ISMS is merely a tool and is not meant as a be-all and end-all. It is designed to help you plan, implement, and control safety measures that will reduce time off from work injuries, increase production, improve employee involvement, and ultimately reduce costs and increase revenue through improved customer relations. A search on the Internet will bring up lots of ISMS examples and help on developing an Integrated Safety Management System.
- Educate & Train. This is probably one of the most important of the 10 steps. Everyone from the CEO to office and warehouse workers must be trained and educated (there is a difference between training and education). We train for skills and we educate for specific knowledge and concepts. Both are essential to a successful ISMS and a safe workplace. How training and education are implemented depends on your situation and resources. I recommend beginning with off-the-shelf, self-paced, interactive training courses in every safety subject appropriate to your workplace, such as chemical safety, materials handling, office ergonomics, etc. You can always move toward more customized courses later, but the important thing is to get the training started right away. These training courses need to be readily accessible to employees from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day. This is easily done through one of many safety training providers that offer courses and a Learning Management System (LMS) to deliver and control everything. Good LMS’s are available for little money or you can go with an open source LMS like Moodle for free. Also check out MasteryTech or TrainCaster, which both offer courses and an LMS at a very reasonable cost. Try a search for “affordable LMS”.
- Make Information Accessible. Lots of ways to do this, but as easy as it is to build and manage an Intranet, it just makes sense to do so. Nearly every business has computers and these computers are connected in some sort of network. With today’s applications, creating and maintaining websites is really a quite simple task that nearly any employee can learn quickly. Once your site is up and running, this is where you post all of the information your employees need to stay safe, like job procedures, your safety policy, safety programs, and just about anything else you can think of. An Intranet is also a great tool for your employees to report accidents and submit suggestions for improvement.
- Involve Employees. None of this will be successful without everyone’s involvement to some degree. All safety professionals will agree that safety starts with management, and that ongoing safety in the workplace is the responsibility of each and every employee. Besides, your employees know the workplace better than anyone else and they can do the things that will save you money and increase your revenue. Setting up and running a safety committee is a good way to get employees involved and to continue spreading the word about working safely.
- Identify & Control Hazards. Unsafe situations must be controlled in order to reduce injuries and limit or eliminate lost work days. And you can’t fix a problem that you do not know exists. This is where hazard identification comes in to play. It is actually very easy and does not take much time. Simple walk-around inspections and more in-depth job analysis will reveal the dangers with the biggest chance of causing injuries that put employees out of work. Do an Internet search for “job hazard analysis”.
- Ensure Legal Compliance. Got to do it. If you are not in compliance, all it takes is one unhappy or disgruntled employee to make a call to OSHA and you will have inspectors all over your facility. And you can be certain that if you have not already implemented a very good safety system that OSHA will find violations. Sure they will give you a chance to fix them before they start hitting you with fines, but once you are on OSHA’s radar you may be on it forever. This is not a good thing. Another not so good thing is litigation. If an employee is injured because of a hazard that management knew about or should have known about, both civil and criminal prosecution is possible. Under California OSHA, and soon to be under Federal OSHA, managers can be held personally responsible and can go to jail.
- Automate Recordkeeping. This is really easy. OSHA requires nearly all employers to maintain work-related accident records, including documented accident investigations. OSHA provides a really nice Excel spreadsheet for this purpose. Additionally, I have modified this spreadsheet to make recordkeeping really painless. Use my email link at the end of this article and I will send you a copy.
- Let Your Customers Know Advertise your new safety system and its results to existing and potential clients. This will show just how serious you are about your safety responsibilities and how you want to do the right thing. Make a big deal (it really is a big deal) about your safety system and how it has improved your business.
- Continuous Improvement. None of what has been done so far can remain static if it is going to continue putting more money in your pocket. Part of this safety system must include a means to occasionally re-evaluate it and continually be looking for ways to improve. As your safety system continues to mature, your employees will continue to benefit from a safe workplace and your customers will continue to see your commitment to safety. This is clearly a win-win situation for all stakeholders.