Every year, thousands of Californians are injured or die as a result of workplace accidents. More often than not, these accidents could have been prevented by establishing preemptive safety measures through careful planning by the company, better business leadership, and comprehensive staff training.
Federal and state agencies keep tabs of workplace safety incidents and try to create safe workspaces for everyone — no matter their profession or job title — who works in the United States.
Workplace accidents are typically underreported. This can be for a variety of reasons: from the minor nature of the injury or a company trying to avoid workers’ compensation cases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses by private industry employers across the United States in 2015. An additional 4,836 were killed in a workplace accident that same year, averaging about 13 per day.
Most workplace accidents, injuries, and deaths are completely preventable and are usually caused by not following the rules, a lack of training, inappropriate behavior, and insufficient gear.
The good news is that you can work diligently at creating a safe workplace for your employees. As a company and business decision maker, you can prioritize safety, keep up-to-date on safety rules and regulations, and encourage your workforce to adopt healthy behaviors to create a safer workplace for everyone.
Safe workplaces begin with a company that makes safety a top priority. Here are some universal things to think about that can be applied to almost any workplace regardless of industry.
- Appropriate uniforms or dress code
A universal company dress code or uniform that applies to everyone minimizes safety risks. If your workplace has an office and manufacturing plant in the same facility, make sure office employees know what they can and can’t wear in the manufacturing facility. Closed-toed or non-slip shoes, certain clothing material, clothing fit (not too baggy, for example), or protective gear (such as safety glasses or aprons) might be necessary depending on the environment.
- Clean work spaces
Having a clean workspace — whether it’s around a manufacturing machinery line or in a cubicle — is important in case of an emergency. Keeping a clean work area means clearing walkways and eliminating barriers in case anyone needs to exit the space quickly.
- Empowered employees
Empower your employees to report safety hazards to management, confront and correct coworkers who aren’t following safety rules, and take the time they need to complete their work safely and accurately.
- Open-door communication policy
Create an open-door communication policy for your workplace where employees feel comfortable talking to you about safety issues or concerns about other employees without the fear of retaliation or intimidation. Your employees are on the front line of the work your company does and can have good insight on how things should be versus how they are.
Another aspect to creating a safe workplace is keeping current with the newest safety practices for your industry.
- Follow guidelines
Safety practices and protocols are continuously updated by organizations like OSHA. Make sure you follow rules and regulations set by federal and state safety agencies that apply to your industry or work environment. These can include how an employee uses a ladder, adjusts a projector mounted on the ceiling, or quality checks office machinery, among many others.
- Set your own guidelines
You may feel that federal or state guidelines do not go far enough or could be improved upon. There is no reason your workplace can’t stand out as an example of safety that others should follow. If you feel your employees’ safety would benefit from a stricter dress code or more personal protection equipment than is required by industry standard, go for it. Your employees may have additional suggestions for you regarding this subject, as well.
Since safety practices and protocols are updated frequently, it is important to make sure your employees are up-to-date on all the necessary training for their job. That might mean participating in new training sessions on how to use new equipment or meet a new safety requirement. Or it could also involve refresher training on important safety protocols like Lock Out/Tag Out procedures, fire or tornado drills, and personal safety in the workplace, for example.
A healthy and happy workforce is important to a safe workplace. Employees who feel good and have energy will do quality work and see how following safety procedures affects others and the company. Here are a few steps to creating a healthy workforce.
- Encourage exercise and healthy eating
Employees who participate in moderate physical activity a few times a week and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables will be healthier overall, miss fewer work days due to illness, and be more physically fit to do their job well. When an employee physically feels good, more stable, and balanced, they can do their job more safely and effectively.
You can encourage your employees to lead healthier lifestyles by offering exercise classes at your workplace once a week, subsidizing gym memberships or healthy vending machine food, purchasing healthy lunches for employees occasionally, or bringing in health and wellness experts to speak to your staff.
- Encourage vacations
Employees who take advantage of time off tend to come back rested and more focused and ready to work. Working constantly at high stress or physically demanding jobs can take a toll on your body and mental health. Employees stepping away from work for a few days to relax and disconnect can have excellent returns for the employer and other employees.
Investing in employee health and a carefully designed workplace will create a work environment that is safe for everyone.
Employer-reported workplace injuries and illnesses. (2016, October 27). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf
National census of fatal occupational injuries in 2015. (2016, December 16). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cfoi.nr0.htm