Prevention is better than a cure. This applies not only to illnesses but also to injuries. The beginning of a new decade is the perfect opportunity to think about the safety of your workers.
It is ethical to come up with measures to prevent workplace-related injuries. Many countries place a legal duty for employers to uphold workplace safety laws.
In New Zealand, there is the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). The act requires employers to take practical steps to rid their workplace of any risks that could harm an employee or anyone else, such as members of the public or customers.
Many businesses tend to focus on the bottom line. Managers feel financial pressure and don’t want to incur the extra cost of instilling safety measures. It is tempting to overlook workplace health and safety measures to save money.
Although there is a cost to it, health and safety for your company pays off in the long run. Think of it as an investment rather than an expense.
Why an investment?
When employees feel safe at work:
- Their confidence levels increase and absenteeism from work and sick leave reduces.
- Staff turnover reduces leading to the retention of skilled workers in your organisation.
- Productivity increases because there are fewer interruptions at work.
- There are fewer legal and insurance claims, saving the organisation money.
New Zealand has a target of reducing fatal and serious non-fatal work-related injuries. The target is a 25 per cent reduction by the year 2020.
To help achieve this target, all managers need preventive measures for work-related injuries.
Here are the top eight measures you should start with.
1. Clear the Workspace of Obstacles
It sounds simple. But clearing workspaces is the first step in preventing injuries caused by obstacles.
Cluttered workspaces are prone to cause injuries. For instance, don’t leave electrical cords lying idle on walk-ways or aisles.
It is easy to trip and fall on objects lying idle on the floor. They can also pose an electrical hazard. To avoid this, cover all cords and ensure they are well secured.
Do not stack things together such as boxes. These can fall and cause injury.
Also, close all cabinets doors after use. Place safety stops on your cabinets. These prevent the cabinet doors from slamming and injuring employees’ fingers.
2. Have Proper Workwear
Provide all staff with workwear of good quality. Find a supplier that can provide high-quality and high-performance industrial workwear.
Image Sources: Alsco Workwear Size Chart
What to look for in workwear for your staff.
- Durability. Industrial workwear should be made from tough, long-lasting fabrics. These can withstand the harsh conditions of your workplace.
- Workwear needs to be comfortable and easy to move in. Workwear can be customized in different styles and sizes to suit your staff.
- Make sure your workwear is 100% compliant with safety regulations. Giving you peace of mind.
Instil in your staff the importance of proper workwear. Use every available opportunity to do so.
3. Encourage Your Employees to Take Small Breaks for Exercise
It might seem simple: healthy employees are hard-working and happy employees. However, many managers don’t understand that empowering their staff to take active mini-breaks throughout the day can actually increase productivity.
Employees won’t know that you approve of incorporating exercise into their day unless you make efforts to encourage daily movement through office culture and procedures.
Consider offering a gym membership as part of the employee benefits package. Suggesting that brainstorming meetings take place during a walk around the block or nearest park is one way of incorporating activity directly into the work day.
Exercise is known to have immediate and positive effects. So it makes sense to take advantage of the numerous benefits of a physically engaged workforce.
Incorporating exercise into the workday:
- Decreases the risk of chronic injuries.
- Reduces sitting syndrome from LOM (lack of movement).
- Boosts morale and mental health.
- Increases productivity in the workplace and at home.
4. Nurture a Culture of Wellness
When staff are safe, they are happier and more productive. Nurturing a culture of wellness at work takes time. It can’t be achieved in a day.
Hold yourself to a high standard and lead by example. Discourage the habit of taking short cuts. As there is no shortcut to safety.
Short cuts cut life short!
What may seem harmless can end up exposing an individual to danger.
A common source of injury is when workers use the wrong tools. For example, grabbing the back of a screwdriver to pound a nail into a piece of wood instead of using a hammer.
They may end up injuring themselves and damaging the screwdriver.
Workers tend to report major accidents and injury but ignore near misses. The argument is that nobody got hurt, although something went wrong.
Encourage your staff to report ALL accidents in the facility as well as near misses. Investigate these reports to avoid a future accident.
Use the reward and punishment system. Discipline workers who take shortcuts and break rules despite several warnings. Also, reward those who always stick to the set standards.
5. Train Staff and Develop Safety Handbooks
Your staff are the most important asset to the organisation. To protect them, provide training on the potential risks at work. Keep training regular and ongoing so that the information remains at the front of their mind.
There are plenty of training opportunities in the workplace. Provide training:
- As part of the induction process for a new employee.
- When assigning a new role to an employee.
- When there is a piece of new equipment in the workplace.
- When you find out about a new potential hazard.
- When there is an introduction of a new procedure in the workplace.
- When you believe there is a need for further training.
- When an incident or accident occurs at work.
Sometimes it is not possible to have all the information at your fingertips. As soon as you hire new staff, give them a well-documented employee safety handbook.
Safety in the workplace is a serious issue. Discipline any staff who are not adhering to safety regulations despite the training. This sends a message to the rest of the workers that your organisation values their safety.
6. Inspect and Maintain Equipment
Inspection of equipment is important. Your productivity is only as good as your equipment.
Don’t be a rookie, hire experienced professionals to inspect your equipment. Although you may know of previous potential risks, let a professional take a second look. This can highlight what you may have overlooked or missed.
Don’t allow employees to use any damaged or broken equipment. Doing so may cost the organisation a fortune in case of an accident. Repair faulty equipment immediately. It saves time, money, and also lives.
7. Display Proper Safety Signage
Identify and mark potential risks in the workplace as a reminder to everyone. Display proper signage and posters. It will increase the level of safety consciousness of your staff and visitors.
Make sure the cautioning message is easy to understand. Avoid jargon and use of ambiguous words. Also, make the message stand out by using a visible colour that can grab the reader’s attention.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration gives guidelines on the use of colours. For example, red signage shows a fire-related danger. For hazards such as slips, falls, and pinch points use yellow signage.
Always place the signage close to the hazard. People need to know where the danger is before they approach it.
Signage cautioning people against slippery floors may seem unnecessary. But this could save your organisation from legal liability and your worker from a slip and fall type accident.
8. Plan for Emergency Drills
“Tell me and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Despite having all the information, experience remains the best teacher. Hence why regular emergency drills must be part of every work schedule.
Drills help you see how well prepared your team are to handle a disaster. You can identify weak spots and address these before an incident occurs.
Keep the emergency drills unannounced. You want them to be effective. Sometimes workers become casual about emergency drills, to avoid this, don’t schedule the drills too frequently.
Emphasise the importance of drills as learning opportunities to prevent accidents. Add an unexpected element into each drill to maximise learning with different scenarios.
Make each drill count by having a goal in mind as you prepare for the drill. For example, here are several factors that are worth tracking:
- Did the alarm activate?
- Did everyone hear the alarm?
- What was the employee response time to the alarm?
- What was the evacuation time?
- What were the headcount procedures?