Keeping workers safe is one of the most important responsibilities of any employer. There are both moral and legal reasons to take every step necessary to ensure that workers don’t come to any harm in the workplace.
As well as being beneficial to employee welfare, there are other benefits, including increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and lower costs associated with workplace injuries and ensuring the long-term viability and success of your organization.
Why employee safety should be front-of-mind
Even with modern safety standards, workplace injuries and fatalities are still all too common.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, a worker dies every 99 minutes from a work-related injury.
Injuries and fatalities aren’t only caused by working in high-risk environments or using dangerous equipment. They can happen in just about any workplace, and also include violence at work and suicides caused by work-related stress.
2021 continues to see COVID-19 affect workplaces around the world in different capacities, and keeping employees safe when it comes to the virus is an added layer of workplace health and safety that companies need to be mindful of as managers grapple with strategies on how to keep employees safe.
How to keep your employees safe
No matter what industry you operate in, there are some key steps that you can take to keep workers safe in your company:
1. Perform appropriate risk assessments
Routine risk assessments and safety audits are vital requirements to keep your employees safe. You should carry these out regularly to determine if there are any newly emerging risks and hazards. Once you have performed the assessment, you can take appropriate steps to mitigate risk to keep workers safe.
2. Outline the safety standards and qualifications needed for every position
When developing position descriptions, you should ensure that each one includes any workplace health and safety requirements, including qualifications. Every employee will have a minimum level of safety that they need to adhere to - for example, ergonomics in offices - through to more advanced requirements such as appropriate disposal of hazardous materials in hospitals or operating specialist equipment and machinery in construction and engineering settings.
3. Ensure regular safety training
Every new employee in your organization should receive safety training as part of their onboarding process, at a minimum. Further safety training should be given where it is required for specific roles.
Employees should always be trained in the proper use of equipment or dealing with hazardous substances. This includes identifying risks and hazards and knowing how to report them. Training shouldn’t be a one-off exercise – regular refresher training is important to remind people about what they need to do to keep themselves and their colleagues safe in the workplace.
4. Pay attention to mental health as well as physical safety
Mental health related workplace injuries (sometimes also called psychological injuries) are an increasing area of concern for many employers.
This can include any emotional or stress-related mental health injuries that an employee suffers as a direct result of their job. Different factors can contribute to this, from being overwhelmed and under-resourced to bullying, harassment, and otherwise unpleasant workplace environments.
Take steps to create a mentally safe workplace and provide appropriate mental health and wellbeing services that employees can access.
5. Communicate regularly about employee safety
You can help to raise awareness of safety issues and requirements through regular communications with employees. Taking a multi-channel approach, you can tailor the delivery of your messages to suit your organization’s needs.
For desk-based employees, for example, you might send reminders via email, desktop notifications, screensavers and scrolling tickers. If you have employees who work in different environments, such as a factory or warehouse, you could use digital signage or send notifications via an employee app.
In addition to this, you should also ensure that you have an adequate and appropriate way to communicate with all your employees during an emergency situation, such as a fire or natural disaster, so that you can alert them quickly to keep them safe.
6. Provide appropriate protective gear
Always ensure that your employees have the right protective equipment and clothing they need to be safe at work. Regularly review the state of these items and replace them when they are too worn to be fit for purpose. COVID-19 has meant that many workplaces now require protective gear that traditionally haven’t. This might be face masks, face shields, Perspex screens and so on.
7. Clearly label and identify potential hazards
When you know there are potential hazards in the workplace, it’s important that you point them out to employees. This might be physical issues such as machinery being used; it could be loud noises or maybe chemicals and other substances. Visual imagery works best for this, so place signs up where the hazard is located. You could also use digital signage throughout your facilities to remind people of various hazards that exist on site.
Taking proactive steps to keep employees safe should be a top priority for your company. While it can be complicated, particularly with COVID-19 thrown into the mix, ensuring that employee safety is a major focus is paramount to having a thriving, profitable company.