Over one million workplace injuries occur every year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is an unfortunate reality despite the numerous efforts by various federal government agencies and employers to enforce and implement workplace safety programs and ensure safe working conditions that are free from known dangers. From injuring a hand on the line of a plant floor to falls that cause fractures in warehouses, injuries can happen in just about any working environment and can affect any worker.
Every employer is required to implement safety standards and take necessary steps to prevent employee injuries in the workplace. Read on to discover key steps on how to prevent workplace injuries.
Examine Workplace Conditions
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a workplace free from any serious hazards and ensure full compliance with the standards, regulations, and rules issued under the OSH Act (Occupational Safety and Health Act). However, this cannot be done if you’re not aware of the workplace conditions that your employees are exposed to every day. You must examine your workplace conditions to identify hazards and risks that pose a danger to the well-being of your employees.
Once the risks are identified, preventative measures can be taken to avoid injuries. Your goal here is to ensure that your workplace conditions conform to the highest applicable OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards.
Cultivate a Safety Culture in Your Management Team
Almost every company owner, manager, and supervisor realizes that safety is a priority. Organizations often have the right safety policies in place and even conduct proper training. While employees don’t want to get hurt, why are there still so many workplace injuries? It all boils down to safety administration. You must cultivate a safety culture in your management team. Making a connection between your administrative team and employee operations can make a huge impact on injury reduction.
A safety culture creates a working environment that gives priority to protecting the overall well-being of your employees. This culture has to spread from the CEO to the senior managers, human resources, and the entire management hierarchy. A successful safety culture concept in the workplace must be reinforced through safety practices.
Train Your Employees and Monitor Them
Employee training is a core part of ensuring workplace safety. Training must be provided in an engaging way that workers understand. Have in place a safety training program for all new employees and for workers whose job roles and duties change. Employee safety training should be part of your organization’s ongoing education process. Don’t just train on how to prevent workplace injuries but reinforce it by ensuring safety awareness.
Monitoring your employees or workers is a key role in preventing workplace injuries. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Are employees following the set safety rules?
- Are they engaged in safe practices and behaviors?
- How are they interacting with their workstations daily?
- Are they using workplace tools and equipment correctly?
- Are your workplace injury prevention efforts giving you results?
An effective safety training program should include interactive training sessions, workstation evaluations, employee monitoring, and quick intervention when needed to rectify bad working habits and ensure compliance. Educate your employees about ergonomics and provide the right tools to avoid injuries from common activities like typing and looking at a computer screen for hours.
Enact Strict Maintenance and Quality Requirements for All Equipment
A large number of workplace injuries are equipment-related. You must ensure that all equipment and tools used in your workplace are well-maintained and meet the latest quality requirements. This will go a long way into preventing injuries caused by malfunctioning equipment. You should also provide quality personal protection equipment needed by employees to do their jobs and ensure full compliance.
For instance, if you have employees who are frequently loading and unloading shipments in your warehouse, they should be provided with back braces to help prevent back strain. Inspect your workplace environment and equipment regularly, train your employees on how to use or operate equipment correctly and safely, and ensure scheduled maintenance to prevent injuries.
Ensure Workplace Safety Protocols are Regularly Updated
Every workplace must have in place the right safety procedures and regulations to keep all employees safe. Your workplace safety protocols have to be updated regularly and communicated clearly so that workers can follow the safety and health requirements. Operational procedures must be established and employees educated about the work-related hazards they are exposed to.
It’s also important to review your workplace practices to identify those that may lead to work injuries.
- Are most injuries happening during overtime?
- Do you have insufficient staffing?
- Are the right qualified workers doing the right job?
A change of workplace practices could help reduce injuries, in compliance with OSHA standards.
Re-Evaluate Your Reporting and Communication Systems
One of the major areas where businesses fail in preventing workplace injuries is in ensuring proper safety reporting and communication. You must evaluate your reporting and communication procedures. In most workplace injury cases, unsafe conditions are often detected or known even before the accident or injury happens. Unfortunately, they were not adequately reported, communicated, or investigated so that the injury could be prevented.
Such cases can be avoided through better communication and reporting systems.
- Do employees have the right tools to communicate efficiently?
- Do they know how to respond to emergencies?
- Do they know the right procedure to report safety concerns and injuries?
- Do you conduct regular safety audits?
Incident reporting and investigation data plays a huge role in helping your organization highlight critical workplace hazards, implement corrective actions to prevent injuries, and spot overall long-term safety trends. This process is critical in preventing repeat accidents and injuries.
The Final Word
Despite your best intentions and efforts, workplace injuries and accidents may still occur. To prepare for the unexpected, it’s important to:
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit on your workplace premises.
- Keep an updated accident and injury report log.
- Identify weaknesses and develop strategies to address them.
- Ensure safety awareness to warn employees of potential hazards.
- Inform employees of their rights and responsibilities.
- Have an emergency plan in place.
OSHA encourages employers to implement an injury and illness prevention program. A successful injury and illness prevention program should incorporate strong management leadership, employee participation, safety hazard identification, quick hazard prevention and control, safety education and training, as well as planned program evaluation and improvement. Such programs come with effective interventions that can significantly help you reduce the number and severity of injuries in your workplace.
Carolyn Clarke is a freelance writer with over 20 years of workplace safety experience as a lead safety consultant with industry-leading safety equipment companies like Moldex-Metric. She focuses on training businesses on creating safe working environments for their employees and how to implement injury and illness programs.