Creating a Safer Workplace

Posted May 17, 2017

U.S. employers are required by law to provide a workplace free of recognized health and safety hazards, but despite their efforts, about 2.8 million people were injured on the job in 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Safety training and awareness aren’t just for factories or mines; every workplace can benefit from greater attention to safety.

Safety requirements help guard employees from harm, but they affect the bottom line, too, says Josh LeBrun, chief operating officer at eCompliance, which helps organizations improve health and safety performance.

“All of the research completed on the topic indicates that companies with a strong safety culture are more profitable and deliver better shareholder returns,” LeBrun says.

Here’s how to create a safer workplace for everyone:

Establish a Culture of Safety

Creating a safe workplace starts at the top. The company’s executive team must lead by example by demonstrating a commitment to worker safety and by holding themselves accountable, LeBrun says.

“Executives are leaders of positive change, and when employees see their managers working to improve safety performance, the workplace culture is ultimately transformed for everyone,” he says.

Leaders can take a role by moving beyond just updating policies and procedures in HR handbooks, LeBrun says. Being transparent about safety goals by sharing metrics and the reasons behind them establishes the importance of workplace safety, he says. In addition, leaders must be willing to dedicate resources to safety improvements, education and outreach in the organization.

Provide Regular Training on Safety Rules and Procedures

Periodic training reinforces the idea that the company takes safety seriously, while giving employees the tools and skills they need to work more safely and to recognize hazardous situations.

“The No. 1 way to help make the workplace safer in all respects is through training, and not just once during the onboarding process, but repeated training throughout the year on a variety of safety-related topics,” says Jana Tulloch, a human resources professional for DevelopIntelligence, which provides customized technical learning solutions. “If management keeps talking about an issue, employees know it’s important.”

The specifics about how and when you train will depend on your organization’s industry and culture — for example, there’s little reason for training on spills in an office setting, says Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, legal editor at XpertHR, which provides online information about business topics. She suggests going beyond one-size-fits-all approaches to train employees about the specific risks and issues your organization may face.

Respond to Complaints Quickly

Handbooks and policies don’t mean much if the company doesn’t follow through with action. If safety reports get no response, employees will assume safety just isn’t a priority at the organization. And if leaders or managers respond by turning safety inquiries into witch hunts, employees will quickly learn to hide incidents rather than report them.

“It’s important for companies to quickly follow up on any complaints they may receive regarding potential health and safety violations,” Tulloch says.

Establish a process that makes it easy for employees to report issues, such as an online portal or easy-to-find forms. Train leaders and managers on how to correctly respond to reports and to respond in a way that focuses on health and mitigation before looking for blame.

Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO and Founder of Reputation Capital Media Services. She has more than 15 years of experience writing about HR and financial services as a journalist and marketer. Any opinions expressed within this document are solely the opinion of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Ebix or its personnel.