Every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home, and every year, nearly four million people suffer a workplace injury from which they may never recover, according to the latest available statistics from the U. S. Department of Labor. Workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses take a profound toll on work environments, friends and families, and the national economy, costing society over $155 billion annually.
June is national safety month – an ideal occasion for organizations to perform a close analysis of current safety practices, identify and mend insufficiencies, and if they have not already, establish a safety program that improves and encourages workplace safety for all employees. By making safety a shared value, and holding individuals accountable for their actions, organizations can make certain that employees arrive and leave the workplace feeling safe and healthy.
We recommend that organizations consider these five basic areas as the basis for continuous safety improvement:
Keep everyone accountable. Organizations should have a set of consistent safety standards to which all associates must adhere. For instance, require that employees immediately report and if possible remediate identifiable hazards and unsafe work manners, and hold the leadership team responsible for performing regular workplace inspections and safety discussions.
Use regulations as a baseline. Regulation compliance is important, but it is just the beginning. Organizations should first identify internal strengths and weaknesses, and then determine the best control measures to mitigate the risks most inherent to operations and benefit the organization’s bottom line. Put these measures in place and continue to improve upon them.
Implement continuous training. Training is key to safer workplace methods. Use peer-to-peer observation and employee involvement in facility risk assessments to allow less-experienced employees to learn directly from leadership. Educate employees on safety-related practices and requirements, as well as changes to organizational operations and regulations. By clearly defining and explaining the organization’s safety vision, the foundation has been laid for continuous development.
Make safety part of the top metrics. For continuous improvement, commitment to a safe and healthy work environment must be measured and challenged. Create meaningful metrics that vary based on an employee’s position and duties, and that not only reflect safety outcomes – lagging indicators, but also the trends driving those outcomes – leading indicators. Share results often to keep employees aware of where the organization is headed, what it will take to reach success.
Celebrate success. Use individualized and organization-wide incentives as motivation for employees to practice safety on a daily basis, and recognize achievements. Everyone likes to know when they have done a good job. Added reward is just icing on the cake.
Carol Jamrosz is vice president of Risk Management,
RGL Holdings, Inc. (www.rglholdings.com), supplier of integrated material management services.