6 Steps to Building a Workplace Safety Program

Are you a human resources representative or company executive and have been tasked with creating your company’s workplace safety program? If so, it’s important to build a program that protects both your financial assets and your employees.

Fortunately, there are simple steps to work through that will result in putting an excellent safety program in place.

Get Each Executive’s “Buy-in”
There must be a commitment from everyone that creating a safety program is of utmost importance. It’s difficult to get everything successfully in place if there isn’t unity regarding the program.

One method for accomplishing this is to simply insert the importance of workplace safety into your company’s mission statement.

Identify Hazards Related to Your Company
Before determining which safety issues your business is most likely to face, it’s important to make a distinction between risks and hazards.

  • Hazard: An event or situation that has the potential to cause harm to people. 
  • Risk: The likelihood that a person might be harmed by a hazard. 

One method for identifying potential hazards is to talk with employees. Ask them about the hazards they see on a day-to-day basis. It’s likely that they’ll identify problems in this area that you haven’t noticed yet.

Another way is to inspect your workplace. Remember that the law doesn’t require you to eliminate all possible hazards and risks. What it does require is that you take all practical and reasonable measures to protect your people.

Distinguish between the following types of hazards:

  • Activity hazards. This might include workshop grinding machinery. 
  • Workplace hazards. This might include how the workshop is laid out. 
  • Environmental hazards. This might be dust resulting from grinding machinery. 

Create Written Procedures and Programs
Your job is to stipulate clearly all requirements and safety measures that employees need to follow. Creating a culture that holds everyone accountable requires that specific health and safety responsibilities are spelled out. These should be included in all employee job descriptions.

Putting all of these requirements in writing is vital. The reason for this is that it avoids any possibility for misinterpretation, misunderstanding or ambivalence. While not all safety rules and regulations are required to be laid out in writing, here are several that do require it:

  • Emergency plans
  • Respiratory protection plans 
  • Hazard communication program
  • Electrical safety
  • Hearing conservation program
  • Energy control procedures
  • Protective equipment procedures
  • Fire prevention plans

Training and Education
Educating employees is the lifeblood of a successful workplace safety program. New employees or employees who haven’t received adequate safety training have a higher chance to cause accidents at work.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards set forth standards that dictate your specific requirements when it comes to training your employees about the health and safety aspects of their jobs.

Take advantage of OSHA certified in-person and online training sessions in order to ensure all employees are trained effectively. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a listing of all authorized training available to you and your company.

These training options are usually delivered via live video, exam or in-person sessions. The type of training or resources you decide to take advantage of will depend on your own work environment and what you think will work best for your employees.

Here are situations that will usually require safety training:

  • New employees
  • Transferred employees
  • Changes involving new equipment or processes
  • New hazards are discovered
  • Refresher training required by regulation

Report and Investigate Incidents/Accidents
Any workplace incident or accident must be reported immediately. An active investigation needs to follow. Most accidents are preventable. Although the outcome of a past incident can’t be changed, future accidents certainly can be prevented.

An investigation into what happened is important because it helps to figure out what caused the accident or incident. As the investigation proceeds, make sure any witnesses or injured employees know you aren’t asking questions in order to place blame. Instead, you are simply gathering facts so that future problems are prevented.

Identify what steps are needed to remove the possibility of repeat incidents or accidents and then monitor results as you take corrective action.

Regularly Evaluate Your Safety Program
Once your safety program is running, take time to continuously evaluate its effectiveness. This should be done on an annual basis. Evaluate how the past year has gone inside the program. Identify the program’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself what might be improved upon that will further reduce the chances for workplace accidents and injuries.

Implement ways to check in on how well employees understand their responsibilities. Give them quizzes and tests. Based on the results of those tests, you’ll know which employees need to go through refresher training and courses.

Don’t feel overwhelmed as you build your workplace safety program. Take it step-by-step until you have everything in place for a safer work experience for your entire company.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.