A recent news has been making headlines, in which a fire broke out in a four-storey building in National Capital Region due to a spark from a short circuit, killing six employees including one of the directors of the firm. These six employees were working on the third floor of the four-storey building which had no sprinklers on the floor. The police investigated that the building did not even have an adequate fire safety system in place.
Similar incidents have become common and because of this, it has become imperative for all organisations, whether big or small to immediately review their Safety preparedness. It is the duty of every employer to provide a safe working environment and no employees or their families should be made to suffer under any circumstances. Workplace safety cannot exist on best practice guidelines and policies alone. A safe working environment is based on how well the people, in both management and on the factory floor, adhere to and communicate about safety standards. A culture of safety needs to be ruthlessly embedded to the crux of every employee. And no doubt, HR Leaders have a crucial role to play in it.
We all know that cost savings are a motivator and always the top priority at every place. But it’s high time we realise that workplace safety’s biggest return on investment is the “human capital”. Employers should not base decisions on whether a particular change will result in cost savings, but instead on whether it will keep employees and workers safe. In many organisations, safety responsibilities are within the human resources department who lack basic safety knowledge, including what might constitute a recordable injury.
Here are the Top 5 Workplace Safety roles that HR along with the safety function together must perform in order to create a safe workplace based on shared responsibility:
1. Job Safety Analysis (JSA)
A comprehensive and thorough examination of the worksite to identify hazards is done through JSA. Post identifying the hazards, appropriate controls must be put in place as a preventive measure in an attempt to eliminate or limit employee exposure to those hazards. Reviewing new and updated safety rules and regulations is important. Doing so increases the overall safety in the workplace.
Many organisations have Safety Committee which conducts surprise audits diligently. Employees are trained to report unsafe conditions to the committee who provides input for JSA process. The committee members are obligated to ensure employees have a safe working environment.
2. Alignment between HR and Safety department
The safety and HR departments do not necessarily need to work together, but failure to do so may come at a huge cost. Historically, many safety departments have grown out of HR. Safety, HR and management need to work together to identify and eliminate any probable safety issues which may arise in the company.
HR Managers are now stepping into a safety leadership role by inspiring their employees to make behaviour changes to help them make better decisions to their own safety while on the job.
3. Just a Policy may not help
Who’s going to do the hazard inspection? Who’s going to know if the guy actually learned it? The responsible HR representative along with the safety function needs to address these pertinent questions.
A good health and safety policy can protect an organisation from the cost of lost time, litigation, fines, and the possible loss of reputation and client contracts. However, a policy on its own will not revolutionise your practices. In order to be effective, employees must be trained. This is where HR and HSE managers must work together. They must ensure employees or workers are receiving appropriate training and following that training regularly. Mock drills need to be planned and religiously conducted by taking into account each and every employee of the organisation rather than just adding it on paper for compliances.
4. Develop a culture of safety
Be aware of surroundings. The foundation of any successful workplace safety effort is one that encourages employees to identify unsafe behaviours and opportunities for improvement while also making well-informed safety decisions during daily routine tasks.
HR must collaboratively create videos on personal protection while on the job, (power tool safety, respirator training videos, etc) to help provide employees with better knowledge of how to use these items in a safer manner to prevent injury. Safety Slogans, Safety competition and various camps must be organised in order to cultivate a culture in which every employee participates in the well-being of all around.
5. Investment in Safety Training
HR person often wears the safety hat in smaller organisations where there is no distinct Health, safety and Environment (HSE) department in place. HR really doesn’t get sufficient training or assistance in this area as this is not considered to be a critical part of their KRA. So they’re kind of left to their own.
The Leaders and the management need to understand the crucial need for training HR and employees on safety issues. In fact, HR too need to make safety training mandatory as part of the new hire onboarding process. And if the job requires practical skills, sitting in a classroom for a day is probably not going to stimulate the audience. One must provide mandatory refresher courses on safety issues from time to time which must not be just restricted to theoretical lessons.
Investments in safety always result in savings down the line. All businesses should take the time to learn more about the workplace safety challenges they may encounter. When companies HR and their safety managers are proactive, they can work to keep their employees’ safety a priority instead of looking for ways to reduce their liability on the issue. There is a direct correlation between safety and what HR can do. If people aren’t happy on the job, they may not be focused on tasks and eventually may be prone to an unsafe situation. And the reverse is true as well. There’s nothing like focusing on safety through consistent application of all Safety policies and procedures. Let’s strive to protect the company’s most valuable asset, a choice you need to make.
Watch out for the new trends in Workplace Safety, in the next part of this article series.