The physical safety of your employees should be one of your highest priorities, regardless of what kind of industry you’re in or what your other goals as a company are. With a safer workplace, you’ll have fewer employee injuries. This is an obvious and self-evident benefit, but there are many other perks to enjoy with a safer workplace as well.
For example, you’ll reduce company expenses; you won’t face expensive litigation from employees who were injured negligently, and you may even pay less on insurance. On top of that, your employees will feel safer, they’ll have higher morale, and you’ll see much higher levels of productivity and employee retention.
The question is, what steps can you take to make your workplace safer?
Critical Steps for a Safer Workplace
Follow these important steps if you want to make your workplace safer for everyone involved:
- Develop proper policies and procedures. First, you’ll need to develop proper policies and procedures for how your employees are supposed to work. If they’re going to be responsible for operating heavy machinery, how should they be operating it? Who will be allowed to operate it, and what are their limitations? Who is responsible for supervising whom? What checks and balances exist to keep your workers safe? The more thorough you are in your approach, the better—just make sure to document all these policies so you have a tangible, referenceable version available.
- Post visual signage throughout the workplace. It’s also important to include signage throughout the workplace—especially in a physically demanding workplace, like in a factory or manufacturing plant. These signs can serve as reminders for proper safety protocols, or could serve as warnings to alert people of a potentially harmful or dangerous situation. Digital signs are especially effective, since they’re so easy to see and so customizable.
- Create a culture of safety. Next, you’ll want to work on your internal work culture and increase safety as a group priority. Creating a culture of workplace safety means making sure everyone on your team holds safety in high regard; they should never feel inclined to sacrifice a safety measure for the sake of productivity or taking a shortcut in their work.
- Train your employees thoroughly. Sometimes, workplace injuries occur solely because employees don’t know any better—they may not know which protective equipment to wear, or how to avoid active threats. You can avoid this by spending more time and effort training your employees. Ensure each new member of your team spends ample time learning the proper procedures and safety protocols in your organization.
- Institute strong leaders. Putting good leaders in place is important for several reasons. First, culture tends to flow from the top down; if your leaders constantly talk about safety and take it very seriously, your employees will be likely to model their attitudes and also take safety seriously. Second, your leaders will be responsible for supervising employees and ensuring all safety protocols are being followed. Third, a sufficiently attentive and safety-conscious leader can make employees feel safer on a psychological level.
- Catch mistakes early and make up for them. Inevitably, your safety policies are going to fail, and your employees are going to make mistakes. This is only natural, but it’s your job to catch them early and attempt to make up for them. As a simple example, if you see an employee without the protective goggles they need for a certain activity, pull them aside, point out the mistake, and give them goggles so they can continue. This may also include a disciplinary write-up to discourage the behavior in the future.
- Publicly reward safety-conscious thinking. Whenever you see an employee demonstrate safety-conscious thinking, such as halting an action in order to make a situation safer, publicly reward them. You’ll reinforce their tendencies to improve the safety of themselves and those around them, and you’ll set a good example for everyone else as well.
- Conduct inspections and be adaptable. Periodically, you should run internal inspections of your organization to see if any elements of your safety policy can be improved. It’s also a good idea to hire a neutral, third-party inspector to review your workplace as well. When you learn new information or are introduced to potential oversights in your own organization, remain adaptable, and be willing to incorporate new ideas.
Safety as a Long-Term Change
Some leaders consider safety to be a one-time change; they add some new rules and policies, they physically change the workplace, and they figure that’s enough to keep the workplace safe indefinitely. But in reality, it’s important to think about safety as a long-term change, and something you have to revisit on a regular basis.