It’s Safe + Sound Week. Employers, how’s your safety plan?
- Nearly four million workers suffer from serious job-related injuries or illnesses annually, and more than 5,000 Americans die from work-related incidents.
- These incidents don’t just hurt workers and their families – they hurt businesses as well.
- Learn how employers can create a safety and health program with the following steps.
Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event held each August, recognizing the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offering information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. This year, Safe + Sound Week is August 10-16. The year-round OSHA campaign encourages every workplace to have a safety and health program to improve businesses’ safety and health performance, save money and improve competitiveness.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of worker deaths and reported injuries in the United States has decreased by more than 60 percent in the past four decades since the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act was passed. However, every year, more than 5,000 workers are killed on the job (a rate of 14 per day); four million suffer a serious job-related injury or illness.
Serious job-related injuries or illnesses don’t just hurt workers and their families, but can hurt business in a variety of ways. Implementing a safety and health program can improve small- and medium-sized businesses’ safety and health performance, save money, and improve competitiveness.
Related: Top 13 preventable workplace injuries [infographic]
What’s a safety and health program?
A safety and health program is a proactive way to manage hazards in the workplace to prevent injuries and illnesses, OSHA explains. OSHA suggests several program models for employers to follow, including OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, NSC’s Journey to Safety Excellence, ANSI Z-10, or international standards such as ISO 45001.
A successful safety and health program involves these three key factors:
- Management leadership
- Worker participation
- A systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards
No matter where your business is on safety and health, OSHA says initiating a program or energizing an existing one using any of these approaches can help you take a step in the right direction.
Related: Commercial risk management: 5 helps for operations large or small
Why does my company need a safety and health program?
Nearly four million workers suffer from serious job-related injuries or illnesses annually, and more than 5,000 Americans die from work-related incidents. These incidents don’t just hurt workers and their families – they hurt businesses as well. Whether implemented in large organizations, medium-sized employers or small businesses, safety and health programs can improve businesses’ safety and health performance, save money, enhance your reputation, and help you be more competitive.
A safety and health program helps businesses:
- Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations.
- Reduce costs, including significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums, pay for time away from work, expenses for hiring and training replacement workers, and loss or damage to material, machinery and property.
- Improve compliance with laws and regulations.
- Engage workers.
- Enhance social responsibility goals.
- Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations.
How do we get started?
Getting started is easy and you can do it yourself. OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs and Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction are designed to be used in small and medium-sized business settings. These documents present a step-by-step approach for implementing a safety and health program, built around seven core elements that make up a successful program.
10 ways to start your program:
- Establish safety & health as a core value.
- Lead by example.
- Implement a reporting system.
- Provide training.
- Collect hazard control ideas.
- Conduct inspections.
- Implement hazard controls.
- Address emergencies.
- Seek input on workplace changes.
- Make improvements to the program.
Share your commitment to safety and health with workers on a regular basis. Including additional information on safety and health topics that are particularly relevant to your workplace may help to make this message more personal.
Related: Help your work comp clients create a job hazard analysis [Infographic]
Establish a written policy: A clearly written policy will describe the organization’s commitment to safety and health and sets goals. Gather input from workers and get it signed by top management. Communicate the policy to all existing workers and to new employees during orientation. Ensure enough resources are allocated to put the policy into practice.
Send a digital message: Send an email blast, write a column in your company newsletter, or produce a video about your commitment to safety and health. Messages could:
- Share why safety is important to you.
- Show how injury and illness prevention is tied to organizational goals and values.
- Recognize workers for their safety and health efforts and participation.
- Report the outcomes of analysis and action taken to address identified concerns or hazards.
- Highlight upcoming investments in safety and health.
Post a visible message: Display flyers or posters in break rooms, restrooms and other common areas to deliver your safety message. Use graphics along with short statements to highlight safety and health goals and strategies, to demonstrate that worker safety and health is an organizational priority.
Establish a visible presence: Because workers take their cues from leadership, it’s important that all leaders throughout an organization show a visible commitment to safety and health. Take the following steps to set the tone for a safe workplace:
- Start at the top: Have the highest-level executive/ leader/manager deliver the message, lead the meeting, or engage workers in discussions about setting safety and health program goals.
- Walk the floor: Regularly walk a different work area and make safety part of your daily conversations with workers. During your walk, observe what is happening, talk directly with your workers about safety, and keep an open mind about what they say and suggestions that they have for safety and health improvements. You can also take a moment to remind workers about your organization’s safety policies and reporting procedures. This is an opportunity for you to learn from your workers and show them that you care about their safety.
- Highlight safety successes: Recognize workers when they meet or exceed safety and health goals (e.g., reporting close calls/near misses, attending nonmandatory training, conducting inspections). Provide on-the-spot recognition of safe practices or feature safe workers in company communications. Publicizing a safety success is a great way to show the organization what you value. It also provides another opportunity to remind workers about your organization’s safety policies and reporting procedures.
- Formalize and publicize your commitment to safety and health: A formal commitment, clearly articulated to workers and outside your organization, helps ensure that safety and health are a priority.
- Be inclusive: Ensure all shifts, buildings and departments can participate. Make certain that workers at all levels of your organization can engage, regardless of skill level, status or education.
Related: OSHA’s 2021 top 10 violations [slideshow]
Get assistance from OSHA: Another option to promote your organization’s commitment to safety is by using OSHA’s no-cost and confidential On-Site Consultation Program, where consultants from state agencies or universities can help you identify workplace hazards, establish and improve your safety and health program and provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. For more information, visit: www.osha.gov/consultation.