Health and Safety in the Workplace: An In-Depth Guide
Knowing about health and safety in the workplace is the best way of preventing accidents from happening.
Read our guide and learn all about this important topic.
A worker is injured on the job every 7 seconds. Depending on the job, there are a number of injuries and other health-related occurrences that can set you and your employees back.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize accidents and illnesses for you and your employees. Read on for our complete guide on health and safety in the workplace.
What is Health and Safety in the Workplace?
Health and safety in the workplace is the center of all daily functions, from administrative tasks to physical labor. It's important to remember that, no matter what, every employee is only human and is susceptible to any potential risks that are present.
With that considered, the task of health and safety in the workplace depends on every person present. Management and supervisors must take the lead, while all other staff members need to remain compliant with all policies. In order to maintain a workplace that is free of occupational hazards, cooperation from everyone is essential.
Employee health and safety encompasses a variety of situations:
* Employers to employees: employers have a duty to take all necessary precautions to furnish and maintain a workplace free of hazards
* Employees to employees: employees have a duty to maintain a workplace free of hazards to their fellow employees
* Employees to themselves: employees have a duty to prioritize their personal safety in the workplace and to follow all protocols and procedures to minimize the risk of injury
Health and safety in the workplace includes everything from employee's physical health to their own personal safety and well-being. In order to prioritize these things and keep your workplace safe, you'll have to develop a plan and stay proactive every day.
Defining Workplace Hazards
One of the first things to do when planning out safety in the workplace is this: you have to evaluate every potential risk. Additionally, you have to be proactive about mitigating each risk and preventing it from happening in the future.
Risk in the workplace can be defined as a hazard that increases the likelihood of injury or harm to employees. For example, spills, leakages, and outdated equipment can all create unnecessary dangers that are hazardous to the health and safety of the workplace occupants.
In order to minimize (and ideally eliminate) risks, you should conduct regular walkthroughs of your working areas, identifying possible risks where you see them. This should be done as often as possible in order to ensure your workplace is free of hazards.
Here are a few of the major things to look for when identifying hazards in the workplace:
* Exposed or faulty wiring in the building as well as its tools, equipment, and electronics
* Improperly or unsafely stored items, such as tools, product inventory, and other supplies
* Areas of leakage, such as points of entry and pipes
* Slippery areas on the floor
* Employee observation of proper protocol for health and safety in the workplace
If you do find risks in the workplace, your next step is to create a list and document each one individually. Then, identify the severity of each risk and prioritize accordingly.
Minimizing Occupational Hazards
On top of performing regular walkthroughs to ensure there are no risks to safety in the workplace, it is the manager's responsibility to develop a plan that proactively reduces occupational hazards. The best way to ensure health and safety in the workplace is to prevent the presence of hazards beforehand.
Be sure you're stocking workstations up with all necessary supplies, such as cleaners and degreasers in case of spills. Additionally, you should provide all personal protective gear required, such as eye protection and hand protection wherever applicable.
Health and safety in the workplace begin with the people on top, so if you're the owner or primary supervisor at a workplace where risks could be present, then it is up to you to ensure all proper precautions are observed. It is essential that you educate yourself about safety in the workplace and ensure that this knowledge is transferred down to every employee that could be exposed to risks.
Create a Policy for Health and Safety in the Workplace
As the most senior employee of an organization, or as a manager who has been entrusted with the task of ensuring health and safety in the workplace, it is your duty to develop a solid plan. By coming up with a written policy regarding occupational safety, you're demonstrating that the health of your employees is a top priority.
Create a Statement of Intent
The first thing your policy should include is your aims, goals, and intent regarding health and safety in the workplace. Create a complete outline of your objectives and develop a statement of intent to furnish a workplace that is free of potential hazards.
Your business's health and safety statement of intent needs to map out how you plan to adhere to all the requirements relevant to your workplace. You should include your aims towards safety in the foreseeable future (which are not measurable), as well as your outlined objectives to achieve your goals (which are measurable).
Here are some key things to include in your statement of intent:
* Identify the main hazards of your workplace and state how you will effectively control each risk.
* Outline the applicable laws in your situation and explain how you plan to adhere to them (within reason).
* Explain how you will continuously conduct risk assessments, plan for emergencies, and otherwise prioritize health and safety in the workplace.
* Ensure that every employee is competent in following your procedure and encourage further questions to eliminate confusion.
* State how you plan to keep your plan up-to-date and compliant with all current laws.
* Short-term and long-term goals for improving health and safety in the workplace.
* List available resources for employees to learn more about laws as well as top safety practices.
Keep the language of your statement of intent simple and understandable by every employee of your organization. That way, it will be perfectly clear and easy to explain.
If you prefer, you can break up your statement of intent into bullet points in order to make it easier to explain. Otherwise, a few concise paragraphs will do.
Be sure to avoid general statements and overly optimistic claims, such as saying you will take "every measure possible" to mitigate risks to your employees. It's important to recognize that some accidents are unforeseeable and can't always be prevented. Instead, be realistic and state that you will do your best to prevent illness and accidents in the workplace.
Map Out Healthy and Safety Duties by Employee
The next thing to include in your policy is a full breakdown of health and safety duties. These should also include how often these will be performed and by whom in the workplace. That way, there will be no tasks that fall through the cracks and each employee will know what is expected of them.
It's also a good idea to set a series of goals and safety targets to motivate employees to actively work towards improving health and safety in the workplace. That way, you can be sure everyone is working up to their full potential when it comes to reducing occupational hazards.
Here are a few examples of measurable safety goals to set for employees:
* A reduction in the number of accidents in the workplace and other work-related incidents.
* Fewer illness-related absences taken by employees in a department.
* An increase in the amount of trained and certified employees in specific safety-related areas.
* Little or no health and safety violations following inspections.
Your plan should also be endorsed by the most senior person in your company, regardless of who wrote it and who is immediately responsible for carrying it out. This will demonstrate to your employees that health and safety in the workplace are of utmost importance. It also places all final responsibilities on the key person in charge, which can help motivate every worker to stay compliant.
Include a Risk Management Plan
Your policy should also include your plan to manage risks and prioritize health and safety in the workplace. Although your main goal should be preventing hazards, you should include a full plan regarding how you will address them if they come up.
Once you've developed a solid policy that addresses all potential risks and procedures for safety in the workplace, it is your duty to stay on top of it. Tasks can be delegated accordingly, but management must also take responsibility for ensuring every protocol is followed.
Determine Consequences for Policy Violations
Once you have a concrete policy for health and safety in the workplace, you should also enact a zero-tolerance policy for cutting corners or otherwise not observing the procedures outlined in the policy. Remember that your policy is only as strong as the people who carry it out, and that employee participation is vital in order to succeed.
To begin, consider the varying level of consequences that could occur if each policy procedure isn't followed. For example, delayed or improper cleanup of a spill poses a greater risk than improperly shutting down a piece of equipment.
After you've considered the varying levels of danger created by not following each policy procedure, create a table of consequences that lines up with it. Determine which acts of negligence will lead to termination, and which will carry lesser consequences.
The best way to get your employees serious about compliance with your policy for health and safety in the workplace is by mapping out what will happen if they don't. That way, there will be no question about adhering to all assigned duties.
Training for Safety in the Workplace
Preparing your employees for safety in the workplace is not only a smart business move; it's also the law. Be sure to review OSHA training requirements that are relevant to your specific situation.
To minimize risk in your workplace, it is essential to properly train and evaluate every employee. You should have a solid list of health and safety procedures, as well as a concrete training program for every new hire.
Use your best judgment to evaluate your specific safety needs, making sure each employee is prepared. For example, if your employees are working with a lot of heavy lifting, be sure they know proper lifting procedures that will help prevent injury.
Considering Paid Sick Leave for Employees
Besides personal injury, illness is the other biggest hazard for health and safety in the workplace. This is especially true for environments with employees in closes quarters with one another, such as high-producing warehouses and call centers.
One thing you can do is keep a strict cleaning and sanitation schedule, especially if you have multiple employees sharing the same desk or workstation. That way, you'll be minimizing the transfer of germs and bacteria that could potentially cause illness.
You should also ensure that all employees are educated when it comes to the prevention of spreading communicable diseases. Encourage them to participate in cleansing their own workstation and have plenty of cleaning supplies readily available, such as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
On top of that, you should also be sure you're discouraging employees from coming to work when they're sick. Make it known that you prioritize health and safety in the workplace and would rather have them stay home to recover. This should minimize the number of employees coming to work and potentially infecting others.
The best practice is to also enact paid sick leave for your employees. This will help ensure that people aren't coming to work when they're sick.
Many businesses may be legally required to give paid sick leave to employees. Laws vary by province or state and the nature of your company. Be sure you know the laws for paid sick leave by province or state.
Start Your Health and Safety Plans Today
A business is only as strong as the employees that hold it together. That's why health and safety in the workplace are of utmost importance. Now that you know the key points of this topic, start developing your protocol today!
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