Obviously, workplace safety is important, but the idea of designing and implementing an official policy can be overwhelming. These eight steps will help you get started.
1. Make Safety a Company-Wide Commitment
If management doesn’t take workplace safety seriously, workers won’t either. Many organizations list worker safety and health either in their mission statement or as a core value. However, simply stating this is not enough. Leaders must combine words and action and show their dedication to worker safety in real life and in real time.
2. Assess Risks and Hazards
Different industries and different types of businesses will require different safety policies. Take an introductory inventory to determine what your organization needs to address. Look for workplace hazards (building layout), activity hazards (machinery-related) and environmental hazards (air quality, health risks).
3. Define Goals
Set specific, realistic and measurable goals for keeping workers safe. Then, develop plans to achieve these benchmarks. Focus on actions, procedures and training rather than illness or injury rates. If you could use some additional advice, check out OHSA’s On-site Consultation Program which is free for small and midsize businesses.
4. Create a Written Policy
A written policy should be endorsed by management and readily available to all employees and outsiders. List risks, goals, individual responsibilities by position, as well as training requirements. This type of documentation will help to clarify expectations and to ensure accountability.
5. Assign Resources
Once your business has established a policy, pinpoint what is required to fulfill your objectives. This may include purchasing other equipment and/or supplies, assigning a point person, reworking job descriptions, scheduling training time and providing access to health and safety experts. Examine the best ways to realign costs and manpower within your budget.
6. Emphasize Education and Ongoing Training
As employees, standards and processes change, ongoing training is crucial. Consider mandatory instruction as part of onboarding, when new equipment arrives, and/or after an incident. Annual or biannual refresher courses are another way to keep all employees attentive and up to date.
7. Maintain High Implementation Standards
Everyone from top-level managers to the newest employee, should be invested in enforcing company safety standards. Communication is a key element. All employees must clearly understand not only how to report potential issues (and to whom), but also their responsibility to do so without fear of retaliation. Successful programs reward proactive workers and reserve disciplinary measures for inaction or uncooperative behavior.
8. Evaluate and Re-evaluate
Standards and working conditions are constantly in flux, and thus your safety policy will always be a work in progress. Scheduled evaluations can help keep protocols current, while employee feedback is a good way to put further preventative measures into place. Finally, accidents or near-misses should be thoroughly investigated to improve the current system even further.
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