Health and safety practices in the workplace do more than reduce the risk of work-related injuries and illnesses. An effective health and safety program improves employee morale and productivity by empowering employees with the tools and training they need to work in a safe environment. Less risk of injury results in fewer workers compensation claims and expenses.
OSHA issued four guidelines for the management and protection of employee health and safety in 1989. The four factors OSHA recommends include management commitment and employee involvement, worksite safety analysis, hazard prevention and control, and safety and health training. These four broad categories can be further broken down into seven essential elements for health and safety practices in the workplace.
Change in the workplace often comes from the top. For employees to take health and safety seriously, they need to see the managerial commitment to health and safety practices in the workplace. Management should lead by example, and make safety practices a core part of company culture.
While managerial buy-in is important when improving health and safety, so too is worker participation. Employees should have a voice in the process, throughout the design and implementation of safety procedures. Employees, after all, are familiar with workplace risks and can raise concerns and make contributions management might overlook.
All employees should feel part of the implementation of health and safety practices in the workplace and should be able to demonstrate a full understanding of their safety rights and responsibilities.
Hazard Identification & Assessment
Procedures must be in place to conduct ongoing job hazards analysis. Beginning with a comprehensive baseline worksite analysis and continuing with routine updates and surveys. Use safety leading indicators to identify and evaluate risks before accidents happen. Hazard identification and assessment is an ongoing project, constantly re-evaluating the workplace for possible hazards.
Employees should play an active role in hazard identification and assessment. Provide employees with the means to notify supervisors about hazardous conditions and encourage employees to use the system. This lets your safety program capitalize on employee insights and provides employees with the means to raise concerns. If employees fear reprisal for reporting problems, give them the choice of reporting concerns anonymously. EHS management software allows employees to report problems in real-time.
Hazard Prevention & Control
When a health and safety issue is identified, management and employees work together to decide upon and implement the best methods for eliminating, preventing, or controlling the hazard. Removing the hazard is the most effective option. If this is not feasible, engineering and administrative controls can be used to either isolate the hazard or limit the number of times employees are exposed to the hazard. Personal protective equipment, while often necessary, is the last line of defense against workplace hazards.
Education & Training Program
All employees–including management–should receive proper and effective safety training, from general safety issues such as proper lifting techniques and warehouse safety to specialized training like welding and DOT HAZMAT safety training.
In addition, all staff should understand how the company’s health and safety practices work and how to implement them. Periodic surveys and questionnaires can be used to evaluate your workforce’s understanding of health and safety practices in the workplace.
Evaluation & Improvement
When it comes to safety and health practices, there’s always room for improvement. Your program should constantly monitor workplace hazards and evaluate existing procedures for efficiency. Don’t aim for “best practices” when you consider health and safety. Instead, aim for “better practices.” No matter how efficient your current policies seem, always assume there’s room for improvement.
Management of Contractors / Staffed Employees
Health and safety practices in the workplace don’t just apply to your employees. All contractors and staffing agencies must agree to commit to your safety policies and provide the same level of safety to their own employees. Before any outside party begins work, discuss your safety procedures with them to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.
Maintaining efficient health and safety practices in the workplace generates reams of paperwork in the form of incident reports, compliance forms, and training certifications. Using EHS management software allows you to streamline documentation, providing employees with easy access to information and report forms, and securely storing important documents in the cloud.