Every workplace comes with a certain amount of risk of accidents and workplace accidents, which can cause mild or serious injury or even fatalities, be it an IT office or a construction site. And while you can’t completely remove the risks or prevent all accidents, you can definitely take steps to mitigate as many risks and safety hazards as possible.
A robust risk management process, occupational health programs, effective employee safety training (while onboarding new employees and at regular intervals after), and maintaining a good safety culture in your organization certainly help. But before any of this, you need to create a workplace safety policy and safety procedures for various operations and scenarios, instructing employees clearly on how to safely do their jobs, and how to handle any situations that come up in a safe and responsible way.
A safety policy is the company’s high-level document that outlines the importance of workplace safety and describes your general approach to workplace safety and overall expectations related to health and safety.
Safety procedures are specific, step-by-step plans or operating procedures in line with the safety policy that instructs employees on performing each work procedure and operation. Deviating from the procedure increases the risk of workplace accidents.
Read on for a rundown on why safety procedures are important and some guidelines and best practices on creating these safety procedures.
Why Are Safety Procedures Important?
A single workplace accident, even a small one, may have several costly consequences. The injured worker(s) could face short-term or long-term issues, and the cost to the company may be anywhere between minor workers’ compensation costs (for mild injuries) to hefty fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or large lawsuit settlements.
All this can be mitigated, at least to some extent, with a good workplace safety policy and procedures.
Some benefits of implementing robust workplace safety procedures are as follows:
A Safer, Healthier Workplace
Research by OSHA has found that an effective workplace safety policy directly correlates with a safer workplace. With clear and detailed safety procedures and instructions in place, you can prevent accidents and workplace injuries, thus protecting your workers and ensuring their safety and well-being.
Employees would feel well taken care of, which would lead to a happier, more satisfied workforce and better employee retention.
Taking the right safety precautions and documenting all your safety procedures will also help you get third-party certifications. Such certifications are like a seal of approval for your operations and help in indirect ways such as saving money on insurance policies, improving company reputation, and creating additional goodwill with customers.
Better Operational Efficiency
An indirect benefit of good safety procedures (and thus a safer workplace) is a boost to your operational efficiency. Employees who know that their health and safety is being prioritized will be more content and productive at work.
Clear and unambiguous safety procedures may also serve as operating instructions, making operations easier and allowing employees to work faster. Such improved efficiency will have an immediate positive effect on your bottom line.
According to OSHA, each workplace injury can cost an employer anywhere from $1,000 to a whopping $40,000 in direct and indirect costs!
Direct costs include workers’ compensation payments and OSHA penalties, and indirect costs include time lost in production due to the incident, the time and cost of hiring and training temporary replacement, property damage, time lost in cleanup, decreased productivity due to reduction in morale among workers, and more.
By instituting effective safety procedures and thus reducing such incidents, you are reducing all these costs as well.
Reduced Legal Liability
If it can be proven that you caused an injury to either workers or customers by neglecting workplace safety in any way, you may be liable for damages in a civil lawsuit. Depending on the extent of the issue, the settlement could be hefty and potentially damaging, especially to small businesses.
Having safety procedures in place would limit the liability as they serve as evidence that you have done your best to ensure a safe workplace.
Which Operations Need Safety Procedures?
While creating safety procedures, you need to first identify which operations or new work orders need such procedures. While these would differ based on the industry and the specific work your company does, here are some general safety procedures that companies may need:
- Lifting and moving objects: These procedures would outline how heavy objects must be lifted and moved safely (e.g., without falling and injuring the worker or a co-worker) and without strain (as regular, incorrect lifting can lead to long-term back injuries) to the worker.
- Slips, trips, and falls: These procedures would instruct workers on how to avoid falling, and describe (both in words and if possible, pictorially) the various signs and symbols that would warn them of slippery floors and similar unsafe conditions.
- Handling chemicals: These would instruct workers on how to handle chemicals and hazardous materials where relevant. These procedures would include telling workers what protective clothing (e.g., thick gloves) to wear and where this equipment is kept.
- Electrical safety: These procedures would outline electrical hazards, instruct workers or external contractors how to handle electrical equipment during its installation, repair, and maintenance (e.g., using safety equipment such as safety glasses, rubber-soled shoes, and rubber gloves), and highlight how to avoid electrical accidents.
- Fire safety: These procedures must have two components: first, how to mitigate fire hazards and prevent a fire in the workplace (e.g., the precautions to take while handling flammable substances), and second, emergency procedures to follow in case of a fire. The emergency procedures would include the location of fire extinguishers and exits and exactly how to behave in case of a fire.
- Working at heights: These highlight the precautions that a worker must observe to stay safe while working at heights. These precautions could include checking harnesses and ensuring that they are safe to work in, using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, etc.
- First aid: Keeping first-aid kits in different work areas must be a part of your overall safety program. Safety procedures around first aid would include the location of the kits, assigning someone to regularly check and, if necessary, restock the kit, and instructions on simple first aid in case of accidents.
The above list is not exhaustive. Depending on your industry and work, you may need to create and implement several specific job-related safety procedures as well.
Steps to Create Safety Procedures
Once you’ve identified the operations to define safety procedures for, you need to actually create the procedures. Here are the steps you can follow to implement effective safety procedures.
Step 1: Learn About the Task and How to Do It Safely
Before creating safety procedures for any task or operation, you should know how the task needs to be performed. If your workers are already performing the task, observe them to understand how it’s done.
To find out the challenges they are facing or how they are doing it safely, talk to them directly. If it’s a new task, review instruction manuals to understand safe operating procedures. Document the steps that make up the task for clarity.
Finally, there may be laws governing certain tasks, so make sure to review legislative requirements before setting out to create the safety procedure. That way, you follow all important legal requirements.
Step 2: Identify Hazards and How to Control Them
Next, identify potential hazards of the task in detail and document them next to the steps associated with the hazards. Once the hazards are identified, you can list ways to eliminate or control the risks — including measures such as signs or specific safety precautions to take, or wearing personal protective equipment.
To make it as detailed as possible, you could do this as part of a documented job safety analysis process.
Step 3: Create and Test the Procedure
Finally, create the procedure based on the information you have gathered so far, and test it to ensure that it works by observing a worker following the procedure. Finally, you need to obtain approval for the procedure from your company management before using it.
Best Practices to Follow While Implementing Safety Procedures
Creating safety procedures is one thing, but creating procedures that actually work and mitigate as many risks as possible, even in hazardous conditions, is what’s important. Here are some best practices to follow to make sure that happens:
Make a Commitment
Perhaps the most important thing when it comes to workplace safety is to be really, genuinely committed to it. Show your commitment by including it in your business plan and integrating it into every facet of your business. If you are really committed, that will show in all aspects of your safety plan, including safety procedures.
No amount of documentation related to safety, including a robust safety program, stringent safety rules, or safety procedures, would actually keep employees safe if the employees themselves don’t follow the procedures.
The best way to engage employees is to include them directly in the process, giving them a stake in making the safety procedures a success. Here’s what you can do to involve your employees:
- Create a workplace safety and health committee and involve them in all safety decisions.
- Include regular (even daily) safety inspections in the job description of some employees.
- Keep employees in the loop about safety inspections, injury and illness data in your workplace, and other safety-related topics.
- Remember that the workers directly involved in operations are likely to know more about safety problems (and associated solutions) than managers. So, actively encourage feedback from the employees and value their input by taking action when they report safety concerns.
- Implement a reporting process to ensure that employees report all their concerns regarding any hazards immediately. When they know that they need to report safety concerns, employees will be more alert in looking for safety issues, which will foster a safe work environment in the company.
- Hold employees accountable by making safety responsibilities a part of performance evaluation, setting clear safety goals, disciplining employees who undertake unsafe work practices, and recognizing and rewarding employees and teams that contribute to safety.
Review Safety Procedures Regularly
When it comes to safety, make sure you don’t treat any document as a one-and-done thing, including safety procedure manuals. Review the procedures regularly, and revisit them especially if there is an incident or a change in operations such as a new piece of equipment or a new project.
Ensure that the Company Leadership Follows the Rules
The attitude of the company’s leadership towards the safety procedures is also important. They should believe strongly in safety and show their belief to employees by acting in a safe and responsible manner.
For example, they should wear the required protective clothing or equipment while visiting work areas where this is needed, showing employees that the bosses consider the rules important as well.
Use Automation to Make Your Safety Procedures More Effective
Creating and implementing safety procedures, as well as reviewing and updating them regularly can become complex and time-consuming, especially if all of it is done manually.
Automating some of the processes using a cloud-based safety management platform such as Pulpstream would definitely make your work easier and reduce any likelihood of errors. With such a solution, you can:
- Store all the relevant documentation online
- Send the procedures to all relevant workers from the system
- Access relevant legal documents and quickly check if your procedures are missing any legislative requirements
- Set reminders when the procedures need to be reviewed
- Create a reporting process for workers to easily report their safety concerns
Make your company safer today with Pulpstream. Book a free demo now!