According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported 2.8 million cases of nonfatal workplace injuries and illness in 2018, with an additional 5,250 fatal work-related injuries. In addition to the personal cost, workplace injuries cost US companies an average of $62 billion a year in lost productivity, workers’ compensation, fines, and legal fees.
Workplace safety programs help reduce the personal and financial costs of work-related injuries through a combination of employee training, preventative action, and compliance with OSHA regulations. Workplace safety can never be 100 percent guaranteed, but taking the following steps reduces the risk of accidents on the job.
Provide Workplace Safety Training
Workplace safety training is vital. Whether your employees work in an office environment or on an oil derrick, they should receive all training required to do their job safely and in compliance with OSHA workplace safety regulations.
It's not enough to train employees during onboarding: Workplace safety training is an ongoing process. Periodically evaluate employee adherence to safety guidelines and offer refresher courses in workplace safety as needed. Changes in equipment, machinery, or workplace processes may also necessitate new training.
Involve Employees in Safety Planning
Workplace safety outcomes improve when you involve employees in the creation of a safety program. Doing so fosters a culture of safety, makes employees accountable for their own safety, and helps identify hidden work hazards management may not have considered.
Establish safety guidelines
Working closely with your employees, establish safety guidelines for all work-related tasks. Workplace safety guidelines should be easy to follow and clearly posted in the workplace so employees can refer to guidelines as needed.
Regular Safety Inspections
Regular safety inspections help maintain compliance with OSHA regulations. Use a checklist to identify and evaluate potential hazards. Examine all areas of the workplace, including:
- Environmental hazards (temperature extremes, excessive noise, ventilation issues, etc.)
- Equipment and machinery conditions
- Proper employee workplace safety training and certifications
- Compliance with OSHA regulations
- Presence of all necessary first aid and emergency equipment
- Condition all any required personal protective equipment
- Janitorial issues (messy floors, blocked exit ways, unaddressed dirt of spillage, etc.)
Eliminate Potential Hazards
All identified hazards should be evaluated, and steps taken to reduce the risk of injury. Follow NIOSH’s Hierarchy of Controls when resolving hazards, working with the highest and most effective solutions first. Solutions to workplace hazards include:
- Elimination: Physically remove the hazard
- Substitution: Replace the hazard
- Engineering Controls: Isolate employees from the hazard
- Administrative Controls: Change the way employees work to reduce the risk of injury
- Personal Protective Equipment: Provide employees with relevant PPE and train them in PPE use.
Routine Maintenance of Emergency Equipment
OSHA workplace safety standards require the presence of appropriate emergency equipment, including first aid kits, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, eyewash stations, warning signs, labels, and emergency power generators. Regularly check the condition and operation of all safety equipment and replace or repair as needed.
Involve Maintenance in Hazard Prevention
Routine maintenance of equipment and machinery reduces the risk of catastrophic failures that can lead to injury, so make maintenance a regular part of your workplace safety schedule. Janitorial staff also play an important role in reducing the risk of accidents: messy floors, tangled electrical cords, spills, slippery floors, and similar hazards should be addressed promptly by your janitorial team.
Provide Appropriate PPE
Personal protective gear is the least effective workplace safety solution as it assumes employees will both comply with PPE regulations and use the equipment properly. Workplace safety training should include the proper use and maintenance of PPE while impressing on employees the importance of personal protection in the workplace.
All workplace safety incidents must be documented to comply with OSHA regulations. Accident reports should include the name of the employee affected, the cause of the accident, the nature of the injury, any factors that may have contributed to the accident, and recommendations for future preventative action.
Employers should also record near misses — incidents that almost resulted in injuries. Near misses are a sign that workplace hazards need to be readdressed and resolved before actual accidents occur.
Documenting near misses, tracking OSHA workplace safety compliance, scheduling training, and updating safety procedures produces large amounts of data, all of which must be safely stored, analyzed, and retrieved as needed. Rather than tackle such a herculean task manually, companies use Incident Management Software and related Employee Management Software to streamline their safety processes and ensure workplace safety, measure safety program efficiency, and verify compliance with OSHA regulations.