As an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep employees safe at work. By creating and implementing a strong health and safety policy within your organization, you will maintain a happy and healthy workforce for years to come.
Occupational health and safety refers to the health, safety and overall well-being of people at work. Injuries at work are not only costly for employers, but also have a detrimental impact on productivity and can harm the public perception of your organization. With North American Occupational Safety and Health week only days away, it’s time to reflect on your organization’s workplace health and safety program. To help you get started, we’ve provided some techniques that you can implement to make your work environment a safer place.
1) Have a health and safety policy in place
Under Canadian health and safety legislation, all employers are required to provide their staff with a written occupational health and safety policy to minimize risks and keep employees safe. When writing your health and safety policy, include safe work procedures, identify potential hazards and outline rights and responsibilities of all levels of staff. Keep your policy up to date by scheduling an annual review or review it whenever job functions change. Make sure it is written in that all levels of staff can understand and have it signed by upper management to acknowledge your organization’s commitment to health and safety in the workplace.
2) Proper training of new employees
Strong workplace health and safety begins with thorough training. Along with training on specific job functions and the tools and equipment required on the job, incorporate a health and safety orientation into your new hire training sessions. Create a checklist to ensure you’re addressing all the necessary topics and make sure to cover rights and responsibilities, workplace hazards, safe work procedures, and emergency response procedures. You can also create a training manual for new staff. Be sure to update with new policies and practices as they emerge. And don’t limit training to new hires! Even the most tenured staff member can benefit from a routine refresher training session to improve the quality of safe work in your organization.
3) Build a health and safety committee
Your company’s occupational or joint health and safety committee is responsible for putting your health and safety policy into practice. The committee should combine members from upper management and all levels of staff to work together and resolve potential hazards or safety concerns within the workplace. When creating your committee, an equal ratio of management to staff should be selected. Your industry’s health and safety legislation will dictate how many members are required for your committee. Members should be adequately trained on workplace health and safety. For more information on building your health and safety committee, take a look at the additional resources provided by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
4) Conduct monthly health and safety inspections
With your joint health and safety committee in place, schedule monthly inspections to actively look for ways to increase health and safety within the workplace. Test all emergency response systems including fire detectors. Check the fire extinguisher to make sure the pin is intact and the seal is unbroken. Keep an eye out for obstructions to emergency exits. Be mindful of seasonal changes that may affect your staff’s safety, such as wet floors from melting snow or cold drafts from windows. Acknowledge these potential hazards and put measures in place to correct them before they cause accidents.
5) Have an accident investigation program
Any incident in the workplace that either resulted or could have resulted in injuries, illnesses, health issues or fatalities should be considered an accident that needs to be investigated. Investigations are an important step in identifying the cause of the accident and being able to eliminate hazards that can cause repeat injuries. Accident investigators should assess the scene to make sure it is safe, speak with witnesses, identify the root cause and provide recommendations for corrective actions. Find more on creating your accident investigation program here.
6) Personal protective equipment
Educate employees on the importance of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and provide adequate signage around areas that require employees to wear PPE. Put in place a PPE policy that outlines what’s required as well as when and where it must be worn. Providing compensation for PPE will ensure that employees purchase items such as steel toe boots that are comfortable to wear over long periods. Don’t forget to lead by example and follow the PPE rules you have put in place.
7) Provide annual maintenance on all equipment and machines
Regardless of the performance of your equipment and machines, routine maintenance is recommended for a reason. Regular maintenance helps to eliminate injuries caused by malfunctioning equipment or machines. A lockout/tag out program should be in place for machines that require maintenance to identify them and keep them from future use until the machine has been assessed and repaired.
8) Keep the workplace clean
A clean workplace means a healthy workplace. Air quality and tripping hazards are just a couple of reasons why cleanliness at work is essential to occupational health and safety. Maintain proper housekeeping at work by having all employees clean their work space before leaving every day to minimize potential hazards. Wipe down floors that may have been affected by spilled oil or grease and return equipment to their proper storage to avoid accidents such as trips, slips and falls.
9) Reward good health and safety practices
Motivate employees to maintain proper health and safety practices by rewarding or acknowledging colleagues who consistently follow safety procedures. A recognition program reiterates to employees that their actions are being monitored while also making it clear that health and safety is the responsibility of everyone. A recognition program encourages fellow employees to make conscious, safe decisions in the workplace.
By implementing proper health and safety procedures within your organization you will reduce accidents and maintain a happy and healthy workforce. For more reading, we’ve provided even more helpful tips here.
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