Health and safety management in the workplace should be your company’s number one priority. If your workers don’t feel safe or like they can report an injury without the fear of retaliation, you won’t get their best each day. In addition to a loss in productivity, you could face fines and other penalties for failing to keep your workers safe in accordance with state and federal law. How can your company balance health and safety risk management with the fact that you want to run an efficient and profitable business? Controlling Hazards and Risks in the Workplace Health and safety management starts by looking for, and identifying, potential hazards that your workers may face. For instance, if your workers are handling dangerous chemicals without proper equipment such as gloves or goggles, you should order gloves and goggles. For just a few dollars per employee, you can reduce the risk of significant injury that would require a large workers compensation payout as well costs related to training a new employee. Other common hazards include operating equipment without proper training or operating equipment that may not work properly. All large or potentially dangerous machines should have mechanisms that lock it when not in use or while it is being cleaned. Machines should also be placed far enough apart from each other that workers can move between them without getting stuck or caught should they need to escape from equipment that starts running suddenly. If your people work outdoors, they could face hazards related to extremely hot or extremely cold weather. During the summer months, heat and humidity can lead to heat stroke that could result in hospitalization or even death. Hail or lightning can also cause injury or death if they make contact with workers. During the winter months, workers may become frostbitten and lose limbs or feeling in their extremities if they aren’t properly covered. In the event that a worker is injured, make sure that you have a neutral claim policy in place. In the event that a claim is denied, you don’t want to look like you played a role in the decision that your insurance company made. Otherwise, it could look you or those associated with your company placed corporate profit above the safety of a worker. Develop Health and Safety and Risk Management Policies Once you know what the potential risks are to the health and safety of your workers, you can start creating policies related to the management of health and safety. For example, you could say that workers must take a break every 30 minutes if they are going to be working outside in hot weather or on days when humidity reaches a certain threshold. You could also mandate that workers wear gloves, hats and jackets when working in cold weather and boots when they work in snow or wet weather. To ensure that your employees stay safe when working around heavy machinery, you can start a certification program for each machine that a person may use. This reduces the risk that an inexperienced worker will perform a task that he or she isn’t qualified to do. It also ensures that everyone receives the same training, which means that all certified workers will show the same level of competence no matter who is operating it. If your workers have to lift heavy objects, you should develop a policy that will make it easier for them to do so. Your options include training your workers to lift with their legs instead of their back, teaching them team lifting techniques or giving them equipment to make lifting easier. Without proper technique, even the largest or strongest worker could suffer serious injuries that may never heal. Finally, you will want to have a policy as it relates to using and handling dangerous chemicals or gasses. Make sure that all containers with dangerous materials are labeled as such with an explanation as to why the material could be dangerous. In addition to providing gloves, goggles and specialized jackets, you should install wash stations and showers to help your people rid themselves of all chemical residue before they leave the facility. Managing Health and Safety in the Workplace While creating a safety policy can help reduce employee injuries and illnesses, a plan is nothing unless you actively monitor for compliance. Managing health and safety policies could involve the creation of a health and safety department with its own staff and manager. Staff could make routine safety checks and work with local, state and federal regulators to ensure compliance with workplace safety laws. Ideally, you will give your people a voice and ownership of the safety policies implementing on the job. If you know that you have workers who have a background in lifting or working with specific hazardous materials, you could have them lead training classes related to those safety priorities. Training videos, online seminars and other regular training classes should be made mandatory to ensure that safety becomes an integral part of company culture. Remember, safety needs to be an ongoing concern within your organization. Injuries and illnesses can happen at any time, and risk should be assessed and corrected as necessary. Workers who are not complying with safety policies should be penalized for their behavior. While threatening an employee with suspension or termination for now complying with safety rules may seem harsh, it is done to ensure that no one is putting themselves or others in danger. If one person decides that he or she doesn’t need to operate machinery according to company policy, it could cause another person to suffer a serious injury. For instance, if a bottle containing corrosive material is left open or not closed properly, it could be knocked over or otherwise spill and make contact with the clothing or skin of another worker. To protect yourself from lawsuits in the future, make sure to document all conversations and other evidence used to terminate an employee before you do it. Final Thoughts As an employer, it is your job to make sure that your people are safe and confident that they won’t get hurt just doing their job. To make this happen, take time to identify possible health and safety risks, create a policy to eliminate them and then monitor your policies for effectiveness and compliance. Over time, you can create a vibrant safety culture and reduce or even eliminate injuries in your company. 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