Safety is everyone's responsibility, from the CEO in the corner office to the workers on the front line. But in the eyes of the law the burden of safety rests squarely on the shoulders of the management team, and that is why it is so critical for every management team to have a clearly articulated safety plan in place. Even companies with a stellar track record are subject to accidents and workplace injuries, and those incidents could prove extremely costly.
Putting a safety plan in place does not have to be difficult, but it is important to consider a number of factors that will affect both the contents and the effectiveness of that safety plan.
What is the nature of the business?
What specific safety threats does it face? The safety needs of a manufacturing plant will be quite different from those of an office, but both types of organizations have safety hazards to consider.
What safety laws is the business subject to?
Is the workplace governed by WHS guidelines and regulations? It is important to take a look at the required safety procedures and build on those requirements to create a safe and secure workplace.
Do you have safety training?
Have all employees, including new hires, been formally trained on the safe operation of the equipment they use? Relying on old timers to train new employees can be a big mistake. Instead of perpetuating safety you could be transferring unsafe practices from one employee to your entire workforce.
It is important to put all safety procedures in writing and to have all workers sign a statement indicating that they have read, understood and agree to abide by those safety regulations.
Do employees always wear their safety equipment, or do they only do so when the boss is looking? Safety cannot be a sometimes thing. In order to work effectively the company safety policy must be consistently enforced. Allowing employees to forgo safety equipment can lead to a casual attitude toward safety, and this could lead to some serious accidents.
Is equipment marked?
It is important for all employees to have access to the safety information they need whenever they are required to use power tools, cutting machines or other potentially hazardous equipment. Attaching those safety instructions to each piece of equipment is a great way to make sure it is available when needed.
Do employees have access to material safety data sheets (MSDS)?
Even the most benign looking chemicals can be hazardous under the right circumstances, and it is up to the company management team to make sure all safety procedures are followed when handling potentially dangerous chemicals. Having material safety data sheets on hand will also help medical personnel perform first aid in the event of a spill or other accident.
Are you aware of office injuries?
Managers whose workplace is an office instead of a factory floor cannot afford to ignore the importance of workplace safety. Even though it seems odd, the office can actually present some serious safety hazards, and the injuries they produce could be even more costly to the company than injuries taking place on the factory floor. For instance, repetitive motion disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome can be very serious, leading to thousands of dollars' worth of workmen's compensation claims and valuable employees who are unable to work at full capacity for many months.
Neck and back injuries caused by poorly designed workspaces are another common hazard in the office, and it is important to address ergonomics as part of any safety audit. Poorly designed desks, chairs and other office furniture can be responsible for many workplace injuries, and those injuries could result in your best workers being off the job for months while they recuperate.
Whether your workplace is an office or a factory, walking through with a clipboard and a couple of notes in hand can help you enormously. Just observing the workplace in action may reveal hazards you never thought of, like heavy boxes precariously perched on high shelves and employees standing on rolling chairs to reach those boxes to horseplay on the factory floor and workers not wearing required safety gear. This simple walk-through can also help you develop a game plan for making your workplace safer going forward, and it can serve as the basis for the safety plans and checklist you create. You should also go through professional safety auditing, and in some cases this may be required by law.