Workplace safety is an ongoing commitment. It requires not only concern for yourself, your co-workers or your employees, but the ability to identify and rectify safety hazards in your work environment before they pose a threat, or, before they cause an accident or injury.
If you don't have a workplace safety plan in place, it's important that you develop one as soon as possible. It's going to take some time and dedication, but it's going to help ensure the safety and well being of all who participate. While it might not seem like the most important thing on your to-do list, there's never a better time than now. Assuming that you and/or your employees are trained or that they know how to protect themselves is a misconception that can cause injury, and even a life. Workplace safety isn't only about understanding how to work safely, it's also about noticing warning signs, the proper maintenance of equipment & machinery, and being able to identify potential hazards before they become hazardous.
You're going to need to take some time to ask yourself some serious questions, take a look at your work habits, your work environment and the common work habits of yourself and others in order to properly prepare for the implementation of a safety plan.
Below we will provide a few steps to help get you started on the path to a safer, more productive workplace.
Identify Safety Hazards
Identifying safety hazards is one of the first and most crucial steps to creating a safety plan. You will need to be honest and thorough in your approach, affording attention to your work habits, the habits of others, the quality and condition of tools, equipment, machinery, power & energy systems and the potential for the unlikely to become a reality.
Ask Yourself "What If"
Tying in with the identification of safety hazards is the ability to ask yourself "what if". What if that 30 foot shelving unit collapses due to being overloaded with weight? Does it have the possibility to hurt someone? Is their equipment within the vicinity where people are normally stationed to complete tasks? If the unit collapsed and landed on another piece of equipment, what is the potential for a chain reaction or what could the worst case scenario be? When was the last time that the shelving unit was check for sturdiness and cracks? These are the questions that need to be asked in each and every aspect of the job. From the safety of simple tasks to complex projects, what is the worse case scenario, and how can you reduce the chance of it occurring?
Get Input From Others
Creating a workplace safety plan isn't a one-man job. Often there are several aspects of a job requiring different skills, the use of specialized tools and equipment or the need for multiple persons to complete a single task. It's important to involve everyone, and ask them to help by completing the steps above in identifying existing hazards or possible situations that could occur within their range of work. Each person should help by identifying what they think is most crucial to the safety of their respective tasks, and what the worse case scenario would be in regards to their typical job duties. These should then be discussed and addressed to ensure an understanding on how to deal with and prevent these hazards.
Don't Rush It
While it might seem that creating a workplace safety plan is time consuming and takes away from productivity, just imagine how much productivity is lost when there's a major accident or injury on the job. Entice workers to participate by giving them a pen & paper, asking them to take their time and spend a few hours talking with one another to identify both group and personal safety risks pertaining to their workplace. Ask them to write down everything they see wrong. Buy some pizzas and make an afternoon out of it. Encourage them to be thorough and account for even the most unlikely situations and then consider if they're prepared should that situation occur. If so, ask them to explain why they're prepared and if not, ask the same. This information is highly valuable in creating an all-encompassing, effective plan that includes all the potential safety hazards. Rushing through it will only defeat the purpose.
Address The Problem Areas
Once all of the potential risks have been identified, you'll need to create an efficient and effective method of hazard resolution. This could vary greatly from environment to environment. The largest threats to safety should be addressed first, and the rest should follow. Be sure to include the group for ideas of resolution just as the group was included to help identify the risks. Aside from resolution, discuss how the issue can be completely prevented in the future so there is no need for resolution. Often this can be done through proper maintenance, awareness, and preventative action. Make it a goal to prevent not just accidents, but hazards as well. Surely all hazards cannot be prevented, but they can all be addressed and minimalized by taking the proper measures and actions.
It might take a bit of time to completely identify all the risks and to create a plan for preventing accidents and injury, but that's all part of the process. Once you're ready, you'll need to compile everything into some sort of layout. A workbook, a printed packet or a powerpoint presentation with supporting papers are all popular ways to help educate and ensure everyone is on the same page. Present the rules, the routines for safety prevention and maintenance, and the supporting information for how to deal with an emergency situation, including emergency contacts and/or procedures.
There are plenty of resources online to create a workplace safety plan. You can find safety checklists for specific industries, as well as information for pre-project safety and accident prevention. The OSHA website is one of the best resources, with a plethora of information available that covers nearly every occupation imaginable. There are also other resources, including both free and paid services that have decades of experience in offering custom workplace safety outlines such as BLR - and you can visit their website's safety information page here.
We hope that after reading this you have the motivation and understanding to implement a workplace safety plan - no matter how simple or complex - to help maintain a safer, smarter workplace.