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5 Steps to Creating and Maintaining a Safe Work Environment

Did you know that workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses alone billions of dollars annually? Good news, many accidents and injuries that lead to this exorbitant sum are preventable, primarily through proactive steps and using safety management system.

But a safe working environment won’t happen by chance. To reduce the costs of injuries and accidents in your workplace, you need to develop a safety plan and build it into your business’s operations and culture. Let’s take a look at how to do it.

Whether you improve your workplace safety depends on clear and well-defined safety policies and procedures. It takes deliberate effort to build a safety culture and work environment that reduces disruptions and costs.

A safety culture does not materialize overnight; it requires careful cultivation at every level of the organization. The development of a safe environment depends on company management and personnel taking five basic actions.

1. Build a Foundation with Safety Culture

Like most policy changes or adoptions, safety grows from the top down. A safe working environment begins with a management commitment. Through active support, leadership can lead by example.

Executives and managers can allocate budgets for training, equipment, and hazard remediation. They can take part in safety initiatives and meetings, and they can model safe behaviors. They can hold themselves and employees accountable to the company’s safety standards.

Beyond upper-level involvement, executives can ensure the active participation of employees through shared ownership. Improve employee cooperation by implementing avenues for frontline workers to report hazards and near misses without fear of retribution. Executives can also empower the workforce by including employees on safety committees and incident investigations.

Finally, a business must set clear expectations and consequences and make available all pertinent information. Employees should be able to easily access everything from expected workplace conduct and behaviors to emergency procedures and individual roles during a crisis.All of these make up the elements of a strong safety foundation. To build a safe working environment, companies must go beyond the basic handbook. Workplace safety is like a living, breathing organism that requires nurturing as it matures and evolves

2. Identify and Mitigate Hazards

As you build the safety culture in your organization and review growing or emerging health and safety trends, focus on eliminating immediate hazards. There is a relatively straightforward approach to creating a safe work environment by identifying and eliminating hazards.

Before you can mitigate potential risks, you must identify existing hazards. The business should perform a comprehensive risk assessment of each department, providing roadmaps for potential issues. The primary hazards to look for include:

  • Physical: electrical issues, unguarded machinery, unstable structures, and trip hazards
  • Chemical: exposure to hazardous substances, spills, and improper storage
  • Biological: bacteria, biological agents, mold, and viruses
  • Ergonomic: awkward postures, heavy lifting, and repetitive motion
  • Psychosocial: harassment, stress, and workplace violence

With each threat or hazard identified, the company can develop a hierarchy of controls. Can you eliminate the hazard or replace it with something less dangerous? Can you isolate workers from danger with barriers or redesign the work process to avoid it? 

Identify what your company can do administratively and operationally to reduce or eliminate hazards and risks to workers. Look to safe working environment examples from others in your industry to identify possible dangers and mitigation strategies.

Hazard mitigation is also essential to a safe working environment. It is an ongoing process requiring commitment from people throughout the organization and at all levels.

Part of hazard mitigation is maintenance. Companies must commit to inspection schedules, preventative maintenance practices, and the development of a clear reporting system. Finally, don’t forget about documentation. Hazard mitigation depends on documented risk assessments and mitigation records.

Read more: Paper vs. digital: why it’s more secure to manage your safety documentation with software

3. Invest in Comprehensive Training

Training is about more than ticking a compliance box. Detailed worker safety training is necessary for safe working conditions. It should include orientation, running toolbox talks, and ongoing training throughout employment.

New hire orientation training should set the stage regarding safety culture in the company. The process should include education on company-wide safety expectations, policies, and safety reporting procedures.

It should also delve into role-specific hazard identification and control measures, including emergency procedures and evacuation routes. Orientation should also identify the locations of first aid supplies and safety equipment.

After onboarding new workers, companies should invest in refresher training to ensure ongoing safety knowledge and practices. Refresher sessions can focus on changes in workplace practices and regulations, incident reviews, and skills practice.To ensure a safe working environment, employers should target the training to specific job roles. Make it engaging with hands-on demonstrations and videos that accommodate different learning styles. Also, companies should ensure training is accessible, providing it in multiple languages. Finally, document training for compliance and later evaluation.

4. Emphasize Employee Well-Being

Creating a safe environment is about more than controlling physical safety and tangible hazards. Stress and fear are intangibles that still contribute significantly to employee health and well-being. Company owners should also recognize the financial toll that stress and fear take through employee illness and turnover rates.

Safe work cultures should emphasize mental health resources like counseling and stress management. Businesses can also encourage a better work-life balance by respecting employee time off.

A safety-focused workplace promotes employee well-being. Employee happiness and satisfaction in turn boost productivity, improve engagement, and reduce accidents.

5. Focus on Continuous Monitoring and Improvement

A safe working environment takes time to establish and will require ongoing work to maintain standards and practices. Companies must commit to continuous monitoring and improvement to ensure their safe practices remain effective and beneficial. 

As with most things in business, monitoring requires having essential safety documents, paperwork, and risk assessments. A clear and defined record of incidents, injuries, and operational adaptations helps organizations evolve. A business must define and use a repeatable reporting process that can eliminate redundancies, ensuring clean data.

Promoting a Safe Working Environment with Fluix

A safe workplace depends on the development of safety protocols and practices, which rely on the analysis and documentation of historic incidents and patterns. Fluix is a cloud-based software platform designed to streamline your organization’s document management and workflow practices. 

Fluix features mobile accessibility, customizable forms and checklists, and automated workflows, allowing companies to improve hazard communications as well as visibility and accountability within the organization.

Discover How Fluix Can Help Improve Your Workplace Safety and Compliance
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