Every business owner strives to have a safe working environment, and it can be a daunting task if you’re on a tight budget. But your safety program doesn’t have to be costly — just effective.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 2012 Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper, more than 4.1 million workers become injured or ill each year. An effective safety program will not only reduce work-related injuries, but also increase worker satisfaction and productivity, according to OSHA. Incorporate these five strategies to improve and maintain safety in your small business.
1. Get a Free Consultation
Small businesses can benefit from OSHA’s free on-site safety consultations. Upon request, an OSHA agent from a state agency or university will visit your business, identify potential health and safety hazards, provide advice on complying with OSHA standards and even help create a safety program — without any penalties or citations.
“When a business owner works with a consultant, it shows OSHA they’re taking initiative to comply with safety standards, making it less likely that they’ll receive a random inspection,” says Kevin Bradley, safety and health specialist for the Compliance Guidance Group, a contractor for OSHA in Maryland.
The only catch: It doesn’t guarantee protection against future violations. It’s up to the employer to keep up with and implement the program to avoid them.
To set up a consultation, visit OSHA.gov or call your local agency.
2. Boost Overall Commitment
Most employers have an existing safety program, but some struggle to implement it. For a safety program to be effective, you need commitment from both upper management and individual employees, alike.
“It starts with upper management leading by example,” Bradley says, stressing the importance of management “taking a hold of safety and making it a serious thing.” When employees know upper management is looking out for their safety, they’ll be more likely to adhere to the protocol. Consider rotating job tasks so employees aren’t overworked.
Managers can also show their interest in employee wellbeing by integrating weekly or monthly safety talks that cover basic workplace hazards, where employees can voice suggestions and concerns.
3. Continue Safety Training
Training keeps safety fresh in the minds of employees and management. And while OSHA has safety training requirements ranging from annual to daily recaps, depending on industry, they’re bare minimum recommendations.
Businesses with highly hazardous worksites should consider more periodic training. “In the construction field, some managers will have safety meetings daily before work starts to do a job hazard analysis (JHA),” Bradley says. During these meetings, managers will walk through each task, noting hazards and preventative measures to minimize risk to employees.
Also, consider sending employees to semi-annual safety recap training classes offered by a third party. The classes should cover the most common safety hazards for your workplace, Bradley says. While safety hazards can vary from industry to industry, typically such classes cover common safety issues like preventing overexertion and avoiding slips, trips and cuts.
4. Rework Incentive Plans
OSHA has recently begun discouraging incentive plans to improve safety, as they often lead to unreported injuries. But Mike Rich, product development manager for Safety Services Company, the largest supplier of safety training material in North America, says there’s a way to make them effective.
“A better idea for an incentive program is one that encourages employees to become active in promoting workplace safety,” he says. For example, he says employers could offer a $10 gift card for reporting dangerous working conditions — and a way to resolve it. Another idea is offering 10 cents per hour wage increases to employees who become members of the workplace safety committee.
5. Constantly Review Your Program
Whether it’s an incentive plan or something different, you and your employees should continually review your safety plan to ensure it’s up-to-date with safety regulations, meets your objectives and is being adhered to by your staff. OSHA suggests safety plans be reviewed at least once a year by management.
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