12 ways to boost workplace safety

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  • 20110005

    SPECIAL REPORT

    12 Ways to BoostWorkplace Safety

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  • 12 Ways to Boost Workplace Safety

    Who can do the most to promote safety in the workplace? YOU! You're the oneemployees look to for leadership and guidance. You're the one managementrelies on to provide safety training, enforce safety rules, and monitor employeeperformance. It's a big responsibility, but these 12 simple, down-to-earth sugges-tions can help.

    1. Be a Hazard Detective

    Workplace conditions are always changing, so if you let your guard down andtake things for granted, a hazard might develop where you least expect it. Andyou can't assume everything's safe just because employees don't bring hazardsto your attention or complain of safety problems. You have to get out there andsee for yourself. Take a few minutes every day to conduct a walk-through of thework areas you supervise. Create a checklist to make sure you identify all poten-tial hazards. As you walk around, watch employees working, too. Make surethey're wearing PPE and following safety procedures. Stop and talk for a minutewith key employees to see if anybody's having any problems.

    2. Stress Safety Training

    Emphasize hazards and accident prevention during new employee orientationand follow through in weekly safety meetings, informal toolbox talks, andrequired training sessions. Answer employees' questions about safety procedures.Give them the skills and information they need to work safely. And don't forget toexplain all rules and regulations thoroughly. Rules are less likely to be broken orignored when employees understand why they were established and how theyprotect workers from injuries and illness.

    3. Analyze Jobs for Safety's Sake

    Know each job in your department so well that you can spot every potential hazard. If a different method will eliminate a hazard, introduce it. If PPE isrequired, make sure it's available. And think about housekeeping requirements,too. Sometimes, hazards are created as a by-product of a job-combustible scrap and trash, for example, or tools left lying around where somebody could trip over them.

    4. Communicate Frequently

    Talk to your people about safety at every opportunity. Keep them up to date onnew information that affects their safety. Provide lots of feedback, praising safeperformance, correcting unsafe behavior, and pointing out areas for improve-ment. And make sure communication flows both ways. Encourage your employ-ees to come to you with safety suggestions, problems, and questions.

  • 5. Be Specific

    Generalized statements about working safely are like sound bites-they don't tellyou much and they aren't too helpful. Be specific about what employees have todo (and how to do it!) to protect themselves. If you're worried about employeesremembering all the details, provide them with handouts and job aids like check-lists, procedural guidelines, and operating manuals.

    6. Team Up for Problem Solving

    Set up employee teams to solve safety problems. Let team members gather infor-mation, analyze possible causes of safety problems, develop and test solutions,and implement and monitor results. Being part of a safety team makes membersfeel that they share responsibility for workplace safety. And when other employ-ees see their co-workers getting involved and making the job safer for everyone,they'll want to get in on the action, too.

    7. Watch for Changing Attitudes

    If you notice employees getting sloppy, careless, or taking risks, put a stop to itright away. Talk one-on-one with the individuals involved. Hold a safety meetingto review policies and procedures with all employees. Use the situation as a train-ing opportunity to provide additional information or improve skills. Do whateverit takes to change unsafe attitudes and behavior into positive safety performance.

    8. Know the Shape Employees Are In

    Be aware of their physical condition. For example, a worker who is out of shapeis more susceptible to back injuries. A worker returning to work after recoveringfrom a job injury might not be physically up to performing his or her regular jobfor a while. Or an employee with a physical disability might need accommoda-tion to safely perform a job. Also, be on the lookout for problems like fatigue orillness. Either one can affect performance and place the employee or someoneelse at risk. Overtired workers or people nursing a cold or the flu aren't going tobe at their best, and that could be dangerous, especially if they're performing ahazardous job. Change an employee's job duties temporarily-or even perma-nently, when necessary-if he or she is incapable of performing a job safely.

    9. Play It Straight

    Enforce safety standards uniformly and consistently. Don't allow some employeesto bend the rules and expect to enforce them with the rest of your staff. Don'tcome down on somebody one day for not following a rule and then ignore thesame behavior the next day. And don't just tell workers that they did somethingwrong. Explain why it's wrong and how to do it right.

    10. Reward Safe Behavior

    Most employees want approval and recognition. When they follow safe workpractices or make safety suggestions, let them know you're pleased and grateful.When you're busy and under a lot of pressure, it's easy to focus only on the nega-tive things employees do. Make sure they get credit for the good stuff, too.

  • 11. Be Patient and Listen

    Maintain an "open door" policy and be accessible to employees. You want themto know they can always come to you when they have questions. If they feelyou're in a rush to hustle them out of your office, or if you're taking calls or flip-ping through papers while employees are trying to talk to you, they probablywon't come to you the next time they have a question or a problem.

    12. Create a Want-To Safety Culture

    Finally, try to create a safety culture in your department in which employees dothe safe thing not because they have to, but because they want to- because theywant to avoid injuries so that they can go home to their families in one piece atthe end of the workday. Help employees see the value in making the safe deci-sions. Remind them how many safety-related decisions they make every day andhow one bad decision is all it takes to get hurt.

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