Why is Workplace Safety Important?
Preventing loss of life is the number one reason to encourage workplace safety. On average, approximately 5,128 fatal workplace injuries have occurred in the U.S. each year between 2003 and 2017. Setting aside loss of life, and quality of life for workers affected by workplace injuries, there are business reasons for promoting workplace safety as well.
Both direct and indirect costs due to workplace injuries and illnesses can put serious financial strain on your business. Direct costs such as workers’ comp, medical expenses and legal fees may be somewhat obvious, however, there are also a number of indirect or “unseen” costs to consider.
Workplace safety issues cause low employee morale and increase absenteeism. Time lost due to investigating the accident, finding and training new employees, and decreased productivity are additional factors that indirectly affect your bottom line. Not to mention, repairs to damaged equipment and property.
According to the National Safety Council, workplace safety issues that cause injuries cost employers a total of $161.5 billion in 2017. This figure includes direct and indirect costs such as productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses and time investigating injuries. An estimated 104,000,000 days were lost in 2017 due to injuries.
10 Workplace Safety Tips to Share with Your Employees
- Pay Attention to Your Surroundings. Employees should be informed of possible risks or hazards in the workplace. They should also be trained on any workplace ha
zards. Better safety and hazard communication increases employee awareness and overall workplace safety.
- Use Machines, Tools and Other Equipment Properly. Always use the right tool for the job. Safety training for correct use of machinery, as well as labeling tools and equipment properly, goes a long way to reducing risk of injury and increasing safety. When your employees are well informed, they can make better choices.
- Practice Good Posture. Good posture isn’t just preventative, it actually increases productivity. Make sure workstations are set up so that employees can practice good posture. This helps reduce stress and strain on the spine allowing the body to work more efficiently with less muscle fatigue.
- Take Regular Breaks— Even If You’re Busy! “Powering through” breaks and lunch to get the job done is a trap many employees fall into. As an employer it may be tempting to allow this behavior, but it actually decreases workplace safety. Not only are breaks regulated by law for non-exempt workers (and the healthier choice for everyone), but they actually increase productivity.
- Wear Proper Safety Gear. Using protective gear like earplugs, safety goggles and gloves if the task requires it should never be overlooked. Workplace safety depends on workers fully adhering to safety standards when involved in hazardous tasks.
- Use Mechanical Aids When Possible. Often employees attempt to “just get the job done,” lifting or carrying things that really should be picked up with a mechanical aid. If employees are asked or required to move heavy objects, ensure they have access to equipment such as a dolly, wheelbarrow or forklift.
- Keep Emergency Exits Clear. It’s a good idea to keep all walkways and aisles clear to increase overall workplace safety, but easily accessible emergency exits are absolutely vital. Obstructed exit ways could mean life or death in a disaster requiring quick evacuation such as a fire or earthquake.
- Always Remain Sober While Working. Drug and alcohol use on the job contributes negatively to the workplace in several ways including more missed days, lower productivity and most importantly, higher rates of injury. Workplace safety is instantly increased by requiring all employees to stay sober at work.
- Reduce Work-Related Stress. According to the American Psychological Association, work, stress and health are closely related. In fact, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems are extremely common workplace safety issues, often exacerbated by work-related risk factors like bullying, job insecurity and long working hours.
- Report Safety Issues to Your Supervisor. The sooner workplace safety issues are identified, the sooner they can be addressed. Employees should never fear negative consequences for reporting safety issues or feel pressured to overlook safety concerns. Making workplace safety an ongoing conversation and positively reinforcing diligent safety reporting is crucial.
3 Common Reasons Employees Ignore Workplace Safety
1) Misconception That Safer Methods Take Longer
Employees under pressure to work faster or increase output may be tempted to overlook workplace safety practices in order to achieve projected figures. While it may seem like a logical shortcut, sacrificing safety for speed can hurt productivity in the long run.
Neglecting workplace safety practices increases the chance of accidents and injuries that could have a significant impact on company assets and resources. Saving a few seconds on a task and causing an accident (that could potentially cost days of lost hours and thousands of dollars) is much less productive than simply completing the task safely.
2) Believe Their Employer Doesn’t Care
If a safety measure doesn’t address an immediate physical danger in the workplace, an inexperienced employee may develop a “nobody cares, why should I?” mentality. So it’s important to communicate and reinforce to your employees that their safety is taken seriously by management, from the top down.
Showing employees you care about their safety and well-being boosts morale and productivity and encourages them to take safety seriously.
3) Doesn’t Know Proper Workplace Safety Practices
You can’t practice what you don’t know. New employees should be given basic orientation on safety practices your business follows in daily operations. Do they know the closest escape routes to the fire exits? Do they know where emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers and first aid kits are located?
Never assume your employees come to you with perfect workplace safety training. Provide training for equipment use whenever necessary and make sure to have safety instructions available for specific duties/areas whenever possible.
What You Can Do to Promote Workplace Safety
Workplace Safety Training
Providing workplace safety training is the most important thing you can do to ensure a safe and healthy working environment. National Safety Month is the perfect time to hold your first workplace safety training seminar or yearly refresh celebrating safety improvements and achievements.
Create an Office Emergency Binder
Every office should have an emergency action plan in case of a disaster or other emergencies. Keeping this information centralized in an emergency binder ensures it’s portable and easy to quickly access. Organizing your office emergency binder and reviewing it with employees regularly shows them workplace safety is import and ongoing.
Energize the Office with Workplace Safety Posters
Visual cues can be very powerful. National Safety Month is a great opportunity to outfit your office with workplace safety posters, and discuss important workplace safety topics. Try printing your own safety slogans, quotes and images on removable adhesive signs that easily stick on a variety of surfaces.
The Best Way to Encourage Workplace Safety
Leading by example is the best way to encourage workplace safety— your employees learn from you. Demonstrate that you place value on their safety and well-being and your employees will follow suit.
Conduct regular safety inspections and reward behavior that promotes workplace safety to encourage employees to get involved. Regularly and reliably demonstrate good safety practices and reinforce the message with strong visual cues to establish workplace safety as part of your company culture.
When workers are given workplace safety training, see that their employers care about safety, and know without a doubt that safety comes first, it will keep your workforce (and your bottom line) healthy.