According to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 4,836 employees were killed on the job in 2015. And if workplace safety isn’t prioritized, that number can only grow. Safety and health programs are designed to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Additionally, they avert financial hardships that can be caused by these incidents for employees, their families, and the company.
Many safety programs begin very basic and grow along with the company. According to OSHA, when an employer implements a workplace safety program, it can help their business:
- Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
- Reduce costs, including workers’ compensation premiums
- Engage workers
- Enhance social responsibility goals
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business performance
- Improve compliance with workplace laws and regulations
The Four Approaches to Workplace Safety
No two businesses are exactly alike, meaning no two workplace safety programs should be exactly alike either. While there is a higher concern for safety in fields like construction and manufacturing due to a higher rate of work-related injuries and illnesses, creating and maintaining a safe work environment should always be on the mind of all employers.
Employers need to use their best judgment when it comes to creating a workplace safety program. A safety program should factor in considerations like the type of work and the number of employers. Luckily, there are a number of ways different approaches that employers can choose from when developing a workplace safety program.
The Reactive Approach
The reactive approach is popular among small, localized companies or those employers who are just getting their business up and running. This approach is often used when employers are unsure of any laws and regulations they need to follow. Because of this, the employer is often only able to respond to a workplace safety incident after it occurs. Companies who practice this approach typically exhibit the following features:
- Minimally established or nonexistent safety programs
- Insufficient management participation, which leads employees to thinking they don’t have to follow safety regulations either
- Lack of value in the program leads to limited funding for an effective safety program
The Static Approach
After the reactive approach, most companies usually move up to the static approach. This approach is used by employers who understand the value of safety in the workplace, but don’t consider it a necessary part of their overall business plan. While they have a workplace safety program in place, it’s often used inconsistently and not fully understood by everybody within the business. The static approach usually includes the following characteristics:
- Informal safety process, with issues only being discussed regarding a recent accident
- Management focuses on handling safety incidents as they come up, allocating funds only when necessary
- Lack of efficiency when it comes to addressing safety concerns
The Active Approach
Unfortunately, it usually takes a history of accidents or surprise OSHA inspections for a company to take a more active approach regarding workplace safety. However, once an employer is invested in workplace safety, it’s usually much easier for them to remain invested and continue to grow their accident prevention program. Employers who take an active approach to workplace safety typically show the following:
- Expectations that employees will address safety concerns in the workplace
- Management understands and respects the role of safety and allocates the company budget accordingly
- Employees are given documentation of safety procedures and are expected to follow the rules and regulations according to the company’s process
The Dynamic Approach
The last, and seemingly most effective, approach exists among companies who are fully invested in creating a safe and productive environment for their employees. Not only do companies who practice the dynamic approach take proper steps to prevent workplace incidents, but also they make workplace safety a priority. These businesses show the following qualities:
- Safety and accident prevention are considered an essential part of the business, as the employer understands that a safe work environment impacts the overall culture of the company
- Management makes the discussion of safety issues a regular business practice, along with employee training regarding safety hazards
- Sufficient funds are allocated to safety initiatives, taking into consideration any needs for safety improvements
What Should My Workplace Safety Program Include?
The effectiveness of workplace safety programs and procedures is indisputable. No matter the approach, any sort of workplace safety program is better than none. But what really makes a health and safety program effective?
Well for starters, the program should show that executive management is truly invested in the program. If employees see management taking proper steps to ensure safety, they’ll be motivated to do the same. Additionally, employees should be involved in the development and growth of workplace safety procedures. Another step to implementing a great safety program is conducting regular, thorough safety inspections of worksites and facilities. Once any hazards or concerns have been identified, it’s important to address them as soon as possible. With that in mind, ongoing monitoring of any hazardous situations is a crucial aspect of safety programs as well. And lastly, continuing to train and educate employees on safety is instrumental in having an effective workplace safety program. In order to have a safe environment, everyone within the company must be committed to creating a hazard-free environment.
So whether you’re just beginning to develop a workplace safety program, or looking to update your current program, it’s important to remember that it all starts with employers. Employers who take action to engage employees and regularly address unsafe conditions will see immense benefits when it comes to decreasing workplace incidents as well as an improvement in the overall culture of the company.