Workplace safety poses a greater danger in some industries than in others, but no organization can afford to ignore efforts to instill safety consciousness in its workforce. Creating a safe workplace directly impacts the company’s business results as well as an employee’s own morale and productivity. According to a research by Gallup, it was found that highly engaged business units realize a 70 percent decrease in employee safety incidents, resulting in 21 percent higher profitability.
A culture of safety awareness aimed at minimizing workplace injuries can both rein in workers' compensation costs and medical expenses associated with injuries and help employers avoid liability for negligence, increase employee morale and productivity, and cut absenteeism.
Here are some steps that you can take to create an impactful workplace safety program:
1) Pay attention to your compliance identity message and culture
Your organization’s compliance identity and culture defines your commitment towards maintaining a safe and healthy environment. However, it is also important that employees and managers are committed to your program, and that support is consistent and ubiquitous. By clearly defining your philosophy, beliefs, and vision, each person knows what is expected from them, and by making workplace safety and health a cornerstone, your employees will understand that it is part of what is expected at work. Make sure that you integrate a compliance identity as part of the overall culture, where every aspect of the business (employee, manager, and department) is aligned with the program and is dedicated to following through with it. The message needs to be carried through: hazard recognition, evaluation and control, facility design and engineering, and operational safety programs, or the program will fall short.
2) Realize the value of engagement
Engagement and worker participation are the most important drivers for safety and health compliance programs. By keeping your workforce engaged and empowered, you will see a fundamental change in the culture. Worker participation is an integral element to an effective safety program. Safety leaders should actively involve employees in creating, reviewing, and improving safety procedures. Employees should learn and understand how their safety performance fits into larger organizational objectives. But it’s also crucial that they see how their adherence to safety measures benefits them and their colleagues. Safety topics may be technical and complex, so delivering training in a clear format will boost engagement and understanding.
3) The importance of blended learning
The National Safety Council in the US reported 4,414 preventable workplace deaths in 2017, and work related injuries cost an estimated $161.5 billion in employer costs, lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage. Safety training is the first step to reverse these numbers.
Training is a catalyst for employee behavior change; employees will know how to perform their jobs safely while maintaining a safe work environment. Manager support, coupled with employee adoption, achieves safety objectives. By aligning compliance training with key business objectives, you will facilitate both a learning and safety culture.
It is important that employees understand the context for the learning program. This not only prepares employees for change but also gives them the “reason why” behind the new requirements. An organized method of implementation eliminates costs by providing relevant training to the right employees at the right time, which maximizes effectiveness.
4) Identify common challenges
A proactive approach of assessing hazards and eliminating risk is the foundation of a comprehensive safety and health training program. For success, you must analyze the barriers and challenges across all touch points of employee involvement. Obstacles can present themselves in many forms: time management, planning, accountability, resources, and budget constraints. Because each of these areas crosses managerial oversight, it is important to have complete support and buy-in across the company. Some see these challenges as an easy out and will dismiss the need for implementing a proper safety and health compliance training program. These businesses do not understand the real benefits and business impacts of these programs. Small business owners may rationalize that the cost of such an undertaking is too burdensome for their size, yet a 2017 study found that workplace safety programs give small businesses an edge in recruiting.
5) Track and assess safety
While strategizing, planning, and implementing are the key constituents of a safety program, one should annually measure the overall effectiveness of the program to make it more impactful than ever. Measure your safety programs by refocusing on key areas of concern and by setting new goals and objectives. Having a good tracking program lets you collect data on all relevant information and enables informed decisions for the well-being of the workforce.
When performing a safety and health program assessment, it is best to use a variety of assessment methodologies — checking documentation of activity; interviewing employees at all levels to ensure knowledge of protocol, awareness of hazards, and perceptions of safety; reviewing site conditions where hazards are found; and finding the weaknesses in management systems where accidents have occurred.
The right investment in a learning infrastructure is essential for your employee safety. Providing safety training that portray situations which closely mirror actual issues and situations found or experienced in real life is key. It is also important to consider that each person has their own best method of learning, and creating opportunities for different styles of engagement gives each learner a chance to synthesize information in a new way. Using a mix of short videos, job aids, questionnaires, and surveys to e-learning can help reinforce learning through various media.
E-learning is transforming the way organizations are providing safety and compliance training to employees. The new tools and technologies are making training opportunities more convenient with the ability for employees to receive learning any time of day at any location. They are also adding to the effectiveness of training, with the use of video, microlearning, and gamification making for a more interesting and interactive learning experience.
Utilizing the best combination of e-learning tools that complement and augment traditional curriculum-based or instructor-led sessions - and are customized into a program based on the unique training needs of an organization - will result in a more prepared workforce and safer workplace for companies.