Workplace injuries and illnesses cost UK businesses around £14.9 billion a year in employee absence and presenteeism. On top of the cost, it’s vital for business managers to maintain a happy and healthy workforce to ensure they’re able to attract and keep the best talent.
Provisions should be made in every workplace to keep employees protected, however, some of the responsibility needs to lie with themselves to learn the safest practice.
A perfect start
There’s no cookie cutter health and safety plan that works for every company, they need to be reactive to each business’ risks and needs. To find out what these are for your business, conduct a risk assessment that covers every aspect of the workspace and employee working habits.
A thorough risk assessment will reveal the business’ biggest threats and highlight which employees are most at risk. Then, those responsible for staff safety can begin to roll out control measures to remove, or at least minimize the risks.
However, avoiding risks is impossible if employees themselves are not made aware of them and the measures in place to prevent them. The problem facing many businesses, though, is engaging employees in health and safety, as busy schedules mean safety ends up on the back burner.
To encourage employees to buy-in to company health and safety policies you need to consider what method of training works for them. For example; sending someone who prefers independent learning on classroom courses will not achieve the best levels of engagement.
Research the different training courses available, like on-site sessions or online courses, to find one that matches your business’ risks and employee preferences.
Plan of action
Keep a note of everything. All details from your risk assessment should be kept in writing, plus a complete list of all historical injuries and incidents. Don’t forget to log incidents of near misses too, as these can help prevent actual injuries in the future.
You should also outline in detail your business’ procedure in the event of incidents like a workplace fire. The plan should be a step-by-step guide that any employee could read and follow in an emergency.
Try to make it effortless for staff to join in with health and safety. For example, instead of organizing formal safety meetings to introduce each new idea, consider creating an online forum where you can pin news and documents that employees know they can find at any time.
Make it a culture
Employee engagement comes from the top. Show you value staff health and safety and are actively putting measures in place to protect it and they’ll be more likely to buy into the work you’re doing.
Encourage individuals to play their part in the company health and safety push by offering first aid training courses and letting them volunteer for responsibilities like becoming an office fire marshal.
There’s an incentive for employees to contribute to workplace health and safety, as they can have their say in how they perform daily tasks. So, make sure you listen, and where possible, act on their feelings to encourage them to continue their involvement.
It’s not just the people that contribute to a positive health and safety culture, either. Your workspace should reflect your attitude towards safety too. This means it should be tidy and organized, avoiding the most common workplace injuries like tripping hazards and falling objects.
Use labels as a gentle reminder of common hazards like sharp objects or equipment that reaches high temperatures. You can even offer handy safety tips by producing posters on how to maintain correct posture at your desk and how to lift heavy objects safely.
Review and improve
Health and safety is not something that can ever be ticked off your to-do list. New risks arise all the time, so you need to regularly review your plan to make sure they’re effective in the face of new threats.
Use your incident log to check for regular or re-occurring incidents. This should highlight weaknesses in your current plan that you need to freshen up. Other ways to test effectiveness include running practice drills for emergencies, to check if employees are following the company’s processes correctly.
Finally, ask for feedback. If things aren’t working, find out from your employees themselves which steps you could take to make it easier for them. The chances are they know more about the practicalities of your plan, having worked through it.
About the author: Chris Pendrey is SHEQ Manager for the Structural Division at Actavo Direct, having worked in various roles for the company since 2013. Chris is a big believer in ‘behavioral safety’ and is dedicated to getting employees home safe to their families at the end of every day.