Labor unions, employee rights, fair wages, and America’s workforce are all hot topics this election season. While these issues are always important, an election year really works to bring these issues to the forefront of the minds of companies and politicians.
Regardless of which side of the political fence you sit on, we can all agree that employees deserve and need a safe work environment. It’s the company’s moral obligation and legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for all of its employees. But what’s the best way to do that?
Government data shows that in 2018, 2.8 million workers suffered from an injury at work, and a total of 5,250 workers actually died while on the job. That number means that an average of one hundred U.S. employees died each week while trying to earn an income. It’s unacceptable.
Despite OSHA’s (The Occupational Safety and Health Administration) efforts, accidents are clearly still a regular occurrence in the workplace. It’s the employees’ right and the company’s responsibility to ensure a safe environment.
Here are five steps for creating a safer work environment.
Step One: Prioritize Safety Training
Most companies offer safety training right after hiring an employee. However, one-time training isn’t going to cut it. Regular safety training needs to be par for the course. Beyond that, consider periodic safety evaluations for both the individual employees and the company as a whole.
Moreover, safety is an ongoing attitude more than it is a one-time conversation. Companies must make safety a part of the daily discussion and habits.
Step Two: Don’t Overlook Spills and Tripping Hazards
More than twenty-five percent of all workplace injuries are a result of a trip, slip, or fall. So, it’s no shocker that one of the first things to improve when it comes to safety is tripping and slipping hazards.
Work to eliminate clutter and keep walk spaces free and open. If standing water is an issue inside or out, look into a floor drain or a traffic rated trench drain. Fix uneven flooring and repair steep or wobbly stairs. If there’s an area that employees complain about, work to get it fixed.
Step Three: Consider Employee Comfort A Top Priority
Improving employee comfort is an essential step to creating a safer work environment. Depending on the industry, uncomfortable environments might not be totally avoidable, but maximizing employee comfort when possible can increase safety dramatically.
Overworked employees are one of the chief complaints against comfort. Overworked employees mean a more tired, burnt out, and anxious workforce. Tired workers are 70% more likely to be part of a workplace accident.
To increase comfort, be sure to avoid overworking employees with reasonable hours and allow plenty of breaks. Don’t expect unrealistic deliverables. Beyond that, try to regulate temperature and decrease the amount of time employees spend in enclosed spaces.
Step Four: Use Proper Equipment
While this one might seem obvious, it’s not uncommon for companies to cut costs by using cheaper machinery, outdated equipment, or asking employees to use inadequate or improper tools to complete their jobs. Unsurprisingly, this leads to more injuries, more exhausted employees, and ultimately lower productivity.
This step is pretty straight forward. Use the proper equipment for the right jobs. For example, if you work in a warehouse with lots of dust and chemicals, be sure to use an explosion-proof vacuum. If toxic chemicals are a part of the job, make sure safety equipment is worn and provided. If scaling to the tops of high shelves is a normal part of the job, opt for lifts instead of rickety ladders. Each industry has its own type of equipment, but regardless, there is always updated and safer equipment available for every industry.
Step Five: Focus on Psychosocial Issues
Thanks mostly to employee complaints and activism from non-profits, psychosocial issues in the workplace have made their way to the forefront of workplace safety concerns. Employees who have dealt with psychosocial issues in the workplace are more likely to struggle with increased stress, anxiety, depression, and in severe cases, drug use, and suicide.
Workplace stress accounts for $190 billion in yearly healthcare costs and 120,000 deaths each year. Aside from employee comfort, issues like sexual harassment, bullying, workplace violence, and more, are all examples of common psychosocial workplace issues.
To combat these problems, it’s essential to create an environment that encourages and promotes reporting any sort of issues that disrupt an employee’s mental wellbeing. They shouldn’t fear retaliation, and they should know that action will be taken. Consider security cameras that run 24/7 to keep your employees feeling safe. Design a layout that’s open, but then use something like modular office walls, to promote privacy when it’s needed.
Workers Demand a Safer Environment
More and more workers are demanding a safer work environment. These five steps are a surefire way to start creating a safer environment in your workplace.
Reprinted with permission.