Integrated Safety Plans go far in Ensuring Worker Safety

Jan. 29, 2003
Making safety a part of the fabric of your daily operations helps ensure work will be performed safely and effectively.

There are many compelling reasons to reduce the number of work-related injuries. The biggest motivation is protecting your company's most valuable asset: its employees. The financial reasons are equally persuasive. A safe work environment reduces injuries and lost time, so productivity and profitability are boosted. Regulatory pressures dictate a certain level of safety. And many business owners see improving worker safety as a corporate responsibility, and feel a social and moral obligation to provide a safe work environment.

Safety managers have found integrated safety plans (ISPs) a highly effective way to improve worker safety and reduce accident and injury.

Integrated safety management is a comprehensive process designed to ensure safe work. An ISP systematically integrates safety considerations into management and work practices at all levels to accomplish work while protecting the worker, the public and the environment.

The goal of an integrated safety plan is to improve regulatory compliance by making employees more accountable for safety, reduce injury rates and assure a "system" is in place to handle any safety issues, not just crises.

Most accidents are preventable, and an integrated safety plan is a relatively easy way to do preventive work and raise awareness of safety issues. An integrated safety plan is beneficial in many ways. A successful plan can:

  • Improve safety
  • Increase work efficiency
  • Minimize costs
  • Protect the public and the environment
  • Increase employee awareness, involvement and morale

Developing an Integrated Safety Plan

Define the scope of work. First, translate the statement of work into project tasks. Prioritize project tasks and allocate resources.

Evaluate the hazards. Analyze project tasks and identify potential process and job hazards. Categorize potential hazards.

Develop and implement hazard controls. Identify applicable laws, regulations, rules and standards. Identify the controls needed to prevent/mitigate potential hazards. Consider the training and qualifications needed to perform the work, the engineering and administrative controls, and the personal protective equipment required. The next step is developing a work plan that establishes how the work will be done, including the resources allocated to the tasks, a schedule of work activities, and as necessary, a task breakdown structure. Then you must communicate the work plan to employees.

Perform work within the controls. You should first perform a prestart readiness assessment to verify you are ready to perform the project tasks. If your assessment says you are prepared, communicate the authorization to start work. Then perform work within the established controls.

Provide feedback and continuous improvement. A site manager assesses the work being performed. Communicate your expectations to employees so they know how to properly report safety issues or concerns. Address any reported safety issues or concerns by implementing corrections. Keep in mind that the extent of documentation required to fulfill each item is dependent upon the complexity and hazards of the work to be performed.

Investing in your Employees

When you have an integrated safety plan in place, your employees see your commitment to their safety. By taking a serious and standard approach to preventing injuries, you are ensuring their quality of life. Employees feel a sense of empowerment when they are asked to participate in the development of a plan that affects them. You show you respect them and value their input to this important company-wide initiative. You'll benefit by getting some great solutions to safety issues from the people who are closest to them.

Employees will be glad to know you are making an investment in their safety, and this may help boost employee morale and job satisfaction. Prospective employees will most likely find this an attractive component, too, and this will help you attract and retain quality employees. The presence of an integrated safety plan may also help you to gain favor with members of the general public, since you are also demonstrating a commitment to their well-being and the safety of the community environment.

Communicating Your Commitment to Safety

Communication is a key component of an ISP. Your communications plan should cover hazard recognition, regulatory compliance, enforcement and prevention. Clearly outline your expectations and regularly reinforce them through verbal feedback and via follow-up sessions for both veteran and new employees. Keep employees informed about policies, procedures, goals and progress so they continue to feel involved in the plan.

Continually demonstrate that safety is very important to the company. Make sure you recognize and reward those employees who comply with your safety standards or who have made contributions to safety and health. On the other side of the coin, you must educate or take disciplinary action against those who neglect safety standards.

Safety Consultants Offer Experience, Focus

Improving workplace health and safety is a serious business, and for good reason. Developing and implementing a comprehensive ISP takes time. Because this is an intensive, ongoing process, many companies employ outside safety consultants to shoulder the work of developing and maintaining an integrated safety plan.

Professional safety consultants provide an objective assessment of your safety needs, and make the timely development of an ISP a priority. Using an integrated team approach, a safety consultant will develop an ISP that's tailored to your needs, but incorporates their experience with numerous other companies. They will be able to anticipate the challenges and offer proven solutions to overcoming obstacles, and will be involved in planning, measuring and reviewing performance. In addition to consulting, many safety specialists offer convenient, full-service safety programs by providing other components of an ISP, including safety products, equipment and on-site training.

Safety: Essential to Profitability

To make real progress in improving safety and reducing work-related injury, owners, managers and line workers people at all levels of the company need to change the way they look at safety. Safety can no longer be viewed as an obscure goal, or something to be worked on when time allows. Safety must instead be viewed as essential to the profitable operation of the company. If it is valued in this manner, everyone in the company will be motivated to make it a priority.

About the author: Andrew Mitchell is vice president of Sales & Marketing for Safety Today's Protective Products Group, Columbus, Ohio. Safety Today provides personal protective equipment and safety-related services to industrial customers as well as safety resources and supplies to the foodservice industry. For a free Safety Audit or information about On-Site Safety Centers, call 800-837-5900.

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