It’s not just about protecting your employees from accidents in today’s world, it’s also about safeguarding your business. You want to make sure everything is running smoothly (without mothering the adults who work for you). Instead, encourage a culture of safety so smart decisions come as second nature to your employees.
Here’s how to set up a smart safety culture, and why it’s a good idea:
- Create a safety plan.
On Day One, your employees should receive basic tools to help them understand the culture at their new job. This should include a clear “safety manual,” that spells out how they’re expected to react in an emergency, such as a fire or natural disaster, as well as how they should act in the office to stay safe.
This might include:
- Rules on dress code for safety reasons (long pants on job sites, hardhats, no loose clothing that could get caught in machinery, etc.).
- Rules on smart lifting or carrying heavy items.
- Tips on hydration on hot days and covering exposed skin on cold days.
- Explain that worker safety exists outside the office, too.
Not only do businesses that work outside or with heavy machinery have to worry about workplace safety, but every office environment should as well.
“The leading cause of work-related deaths (around 40%) is motor vehicle accidents,” notes Bruce Hollcroft, CSP, ARM, CHMM, Senior Risk Control Specialist, PayneWest Insurance. “Almost everyone drives at some time for work-related reasons. Driving safely — not talking on cell phones, no distracted driving and following the traffic laws — are must haves when it comes to smart work safety.”
- Get the desk set involved in staying safe.
Before employees say, “But I sit at a desk all day, how could this be unsafe?” know that poor workstation ergonomics and sitting all day long can be very hazardous to your health. It’s important to have a safe environment at work, even if it seems like a more “passive” cubicle row, instead of a busy lumberyard.
Some tips for smart sitting:
- Pick a good chair that supports your lower back and stability.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Get your back positioned in a neutral position.
- Here are some quick tips on a safe desk setup for work.
- Need more help? Ergonomic consultants are available in almost every city, and could even be covered with your insurance plan. Talk to your broker about getting ergonomics consultant services in your plan.
Most important: Don’t limit your movement!
Get up and change positions and walk around every hour if you can. Try the 20/20/20 rule for computer screens — every 20 minutes change your gaze to look at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a chance to rest and refocus so you don’t develop eyestrain or damage at the computer.
- Don’t see safety as silly spending.
Having a safe workplace isn’t about bubble wrapping everything so nothing can go wrong! It’s about creating a place where work happens, and employees are safe and happy at all times.
“Don’t consider safety to be a big investment,” said Hollcroft. “How much does it really cost to put on a hard hat or buckle your seatbelt?”
“Studies now show there’s a 2 to 1 return on investment for safety based on the ability to reduce accidents,” he said.
“Even an expensive ergonomic consultant who produces a full report on your company is going to be less of a financial investment than if one employee has a soft tissue injury — an average cost of $7,000 per injury — that resulted from you not doing anything,” he added.
- Know that Safety Happens Over Your Lifetime
You probably still remember “safety rules” you learned in grade school, like not to touch a hot stove or to look both ways before you cross the street. It’s the same when we learn safety skills as adults.
“If an employee works in an environment with a strong safety culture, some of that will carry over when they go home,” said Hollcroft. “The same goes the other way, too. Injuries impact your daily life, not just at work.”
“If you work for a company with a strong safety culture, it becomes part of your routine and you adopt it all the time,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you get hurt — it’s going to be a negative impact on both the employer, the employee and their families.”