Why Is Workplace Safety Important?
No matter the size of your business or the industry it operates in, workplace safety should always be a priority. Without a safe work environment, employees are less satisfied with their jobs and less productive in doing them. Plus, not to mention the higher risk of accident or injury they face.
A dangerous workplace can damage businesses in a number of ways. For example, it has the potential to risk employees’ safety, business reputation, and even it can negatively impact revenue. This is why it's crucial for businesses to maintain safety and health in the workplace.
What is workplace safety?
Workplace safety, or occupational safety, involves implementing plans, procedures, and training to keep your employees safe on the job. That doesn’t just mean preventing accidents on the job as it also extends to the mental health and general wellbeing of your employees.
The necessary safety measures for a workplace differ by industry and facility. Generally speaking, it usually involves elements such as proper emergency procedures, safe handling of equipment and materials, first aid, fire safety, electrical safety, and general accident prevention.
Tailoring these safety measures to your workplace helps to keep employees safe, safeguarding occupational health and allowing them to do their jobs without risk of workplace injury.
Why is workplace safety important?
Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping employees safe and healthy, workplace safety also offers a number of other benefits. Some of the reasons why workplace safety is good for your business include:
- A safer environment can increase productivity: If employees feel safe, they’ll feel more able to engage with their work without worrying about injuries.
- Reduced absenteeism: People who don’t feel safe are more likely to want to skip out on work.
- Increased employee satisfaction: By showing you care about your employees and their safety, you can boost employee morale and job satisfaction; this helps to improve employee retention, and can also make recruitment easier if you have a reputation for valuing employees.
- Reduce financial loss: Workplace accidents can be costly in several ways - you’ll lose time to accident investigations and employee recovery time, and could also face costly lawsuits or employee insurance claims.
Ensuring employee health and safety is therefore a responsibility for every employer — not only to safeguard their wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of their business.
How to ensure workplace safety?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to health and safety in the workplace, since the exact measures needed will depend on your industry and what types of facility you operate. However, the following safety guide provides some general safety tips for boosting workplace safety standards.
Step 1: Conduct a thorough risk assessment
Knowing what can go wrong is an important first step to making sure it doesn’t go wrong. You should carry out a comprehensive risk assessment for your entire workplace, identify workplace hazards, and put procedures in place to reduce the risk from them.
Risks can commonly stem from three main areas:
- Equipment: Tools, machinery, and other equipment which may be the cause of accidents if not used properly or safely.
- Environment: Potential accidents that can stem from the nature of the work your facility carries out and the environment it creates.
- Behaviors: Ways that employees can act that may increase risk, i.e not following safety protocols.
Addressing these key areas through a risk assessment gives you a better idea of how to minimize the possibility of accidents or injuries in the workplace.
Step 2: Implement a workplace safety training programs
After identifying workplace risks, you need to implement the proper safety training to educate your employees on them, spreading awareness to reduce risk. You need to put robust workplace safety programs in place across the whole company, making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety.
You should provide clear instructions on how to work safely in all facilities and operations, and make sure employees fully understand them. This is especially important when it comes to newer employees, who have a higher risk of workplace accidents. This is why it’s crucial to implement safety training from day one.
You should provide all the necessary specialist training for using equipment and machinery in your workplace safely, as well as general health and safety measures. Areas you might cover include:
- Basic first aid: To ensure injured workers can get quick medical attention if accidents do occur.
- Fire and emergency safety: Outline escape procedures, emergency exits, and rendezvous points.
- CPR: To prevent fatalities from the most serious accidents.
- Hygiene and contamination prevention: Especially important in workplaces that handle dangerous chemicals, food-based facilities, and medical facilities where contamination control is important to prevent infections (eg. via bloodborne pathogens).
You can provide this training in-house using your own dedicated health and safety team, or if you lack the resources, you can employ third-party training providers. You could also consider specialist health and safety courses for specific employees to train them as occupational health experts who can inform your safety program in the future.
That said, when you deliver workplace safety training, it is important to make it informative, interesting, and ensure employee engagement. That’s because if employees don’t pay attention during the training, then your program will not have much of an impact in creating a safe workplace.
Step 3: Provide the correct safety equipment
Most industries should provide their employees with safety supplies and equipment of some form to prevent them from getting injured on the job. For example:
- Construction businesses may provide hard hats, hi-vis vests, safety footwear, hearing protection, or eye safety gear (eg. goggles).
- Medical facilities may use personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to reduce infection.
- Warehouses or factories could use lifting aids like forklifts or conveyors.
Sometimes, safety and protection equipment might not be as obvious, though. Office workers also need safety equipment such as chairs that provide good back support and promote good posture to avoid muscular injuries.
Situational safety equipment is also necessary. Make sure everyone in your workplace knows where to find first aid kits in case of injuries, as well as the location of fire extinguishers to help respond to fires rapidly.
Step 4: Manage workplace stress
It’s necessary to think of the mental health of your employees as well as their physical health. In particular, stress can be highly detrimental to their well-being.
Stress can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. As well as having severe ramifications for your employees’ wellbeing, these conditions can also affect how well they work, reducing workplace productivity, job satisfaction, and even their willingness to remain in the job.
As a result, it’s in your interest to look after employees’ mental health. Be aware of the causes of stress. Things like high workloads, workplace bullying or conflicts, or a lack of satisfaction in their job. If you do happen to notice an issue arise, then it's always a good idea to address these issues in a timely sensitive manner.
Putting in place an open door policy that helps employees feel comfortable talking about these issues can go a long way to resolving them proactively. Nowadays, it's becoming more common for businesses to offer mental health support to all their employees to ensure they regularly take time off and avoid burnout.
Step 5: Encourage employees to stay active
This mainly applies to office workers who spend most of their working day sitting at a desk, but is a key consideration for other workplaces too. Inactive workers may suffer a higher risk of heart disease, muscular conditions, and other long-term conditions, so it’s important to make sure they have a chance to get exercise and stay active.
To help, you could implement employee fitness programs or sports clubs, or offer complimentary gym memberships to encourage employees to stay fit and active.
Step 6: Support regular breaks
Tiredness and fatigue can greatly increase an employee’s risk of causing harm to themselves or others in the workplace. Feeling tired can impair decision-making, reaction time, and attentiveness, which could all increase the risk of accidents.
To counter this, provide regular breaks and make sure they’re taken. Limit how long employees can work in a single shift, and make sure that employees involved in heavy manual labor have ample opportunity to rest and recover between shifts.
Step 7: Enable workers to speak up about safety
Safety isn’t just your responsibility it is also your employees as well. Sometimes, employees may not feel comfortable drawing attention to unsafe working conditions, safety issues, or non-compliance with safety policies.
To help them feel more able to speak up, keep a culture of openness, and consider anonymous channels of feedback to help workers feel more comfortable relaying safety concerns to HR, management, and supervisors.
Employees and employers alike are both invested in reducing workplace safety hazards, so enabling a cooperative approach to safety is the best way to keep your workplace safe and ensure safety compliance. At the same time, it’s a powerful way of building trust between managers and employees and ensuring productive work environments.
The importance of workplace safety management can’t be overstated as it keeps your employees safe and happy. Plus, not to mention, it makes financial sense to help employees avoid health issues and stay productive. Maintaining a strong safety culture is one aspect of your business you can’t afford to ignore.
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