It’s easy to turn a blind eye to safety when working in fast-paced environments and having to meet project deadlines. However, most manufacturing employers can attest to the turbulent outcomes that can arise if safety standards are not regularly enforced. Our everyday actions can have an impact on cost and productivity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,000 eye injuries occur every day in the workplace, costing more than $300 million in lost production time, medical expenses and worker compensation.
It’s clear that many companies are failing workers with insufficient safety programs and injury prevention plans. However, employers have the opportunity to turn this situation around with a few changes. Protecting employees doesn’t mean your organization has to start from square one. It does, however, require you to create a strong safety culture and open communication channels so employees can collaborate when it comes to hazard identification and problem-solving.
Here are five tips that operations managers, site managers and safety coaches can use to start that dialogue:
1. Start from the top. Developing a healthy safety culture requires leadership to champion safety as a key organizational value. The company culture must include leading, working and acting safe. When management leads in safety, the organization will follow.
2. Distribute safety surveys. When executing on your safety culture, it’s important to first find out what your employees know about your safety guidelines and expectations. Are they familiar with your corporate policies and procedures? Do they even know their own responsibilities when it comes to safety? This survey also serves as a great opportunity to get anonymous feedback on employees’ perceptions about the safety in your workplace.
3. Conduct pre-shift huddles. This is a time when management can reinforce the safety culture by covering near-injury misses, newly identified hazards and educating staff on how proper processes and equipment handling can protect everyone’s health and safety. The goal of safety huddles is to also provide an open, non-punitive forum for employees to communicate about workplace safety.
4. One-on-one discussions. Supervisors can build trust and show respect for their workers’ safety by engaging associates in informal safety discussions. Associates who know that their opinions and perspectives are valued will be more likely to participate in informal communication about safety practices. This is also an ideal setting to gain feedback from employees who may not be comfortable bringing up concerns in front of a large group.
5. Perform ongoing safety training. Providing safety training for employees is essential for creating a culture of workplace safety. A workforce with a strong understanding of safety guidelines and best practices is more likely to recognize potential hazards before they occur. This can lead to fewer injuries and help you avoid costly losses in productivity and employee morale.
Some of the benefits of a safer and more engaged workforce include:
● reduced workers’ compensation costs, lower medical expenses and improved productivity.
● improved safety as a result of clear and repeatable processes for identifying and addressing hazards and injury threats.
● stronger employer branding and positive outside perspective of the organization.
Impact on Employer Branding
Workplace safety should begin and end not only with workers in mind, but with workers being engaged—actively participating and driving safety programs forward. High levels of employee engagement have also been correlated with greater productivity, quality and profitability, as well as reduced turnover rates. It can also contribute to improved employee retention, and it even has the ability to impact recruiting, since job seekers will be able to learn about your culture of safety through online reviews. In today’s world, job seekers look to current and former employees’ experience to decide whether or not they want to work for a company.
Leaders must be diligent about creating a culture of safety. It’s negligent to be nonchalant when your team is exposed to hazards, and your company’s reputation will be damaged permanently if leaders don’t make safety a top priority. Don’t ignore the pitfalls you’ve noticed—see them as an opportunity to put better safety procedures in place with the help of your team.
Corey Berghoefer is senior vice president of risk management & insurance at Randstad US, an HR services and staffing firm. He has 14 years of experience in enterprise risk management, underwriting, safety, loss control, claims management and risk financing and insurance accounting.