How to create a workplace safety program

How to create a workplace safety program

There are many benefits to having a workplace safety program. These include reduced insurance premiums, fewer lawsuits, lower workers’ compensation claims, and increased productivity, efficiency and profits through fewer lost employee workdays.

Following these eight steps, you can help your company create a workplace safety program.

  1. Organize a workplace safety committee

    Ask the HR department or company owner who they would like on a safety committee for the business. Not all committee members have to be involved in writing a procedure guide or planning safety drills. Department heads, for example, might sit in on the first meeting to share the health and safety concerns associated with their areas. Set up a schedule to rotate in new committee members, recommends Kevin Druley, associate editor of Safety + Health magazine. Some employees might want more responsibility to help build their resumes. Ask your employer if you can arrange a few perks for the main safety committee members, such as a quarterly group lunch or an extra day off each year.

  2. Create a list of resources

    Be prepared for your first committee meeting by thinking about what resources can help you create a safety plan for your business. Experts might include:

    • Your insurance company
    • Your company attorney
    • Local fire marshal
    • Local police department
    • Building manager
    • Security consultant
    • National Safety Council, OSHA, CDC, Department of Labor websites
    • American Red Cross

    Experts might offer to visit your workplace free of charge to walk the premises and review your current state of preparedness, security and safety. Organizations might offer you posters, articles for your company newsletter and other resources. Here’s a helpful outline for creating duties and objectives for safety committee members.

  3. Examine your workplace for potential problems

    Once you’ve lined up your resources and key safety committee members, walk your worksite looking for existing and potential problems. You won’t have to make decisions on how to address problems during your first walk-through—that’s what your experts are for. Once you’ve done your initial walk-through, invite your insurance, police, fire department, building or security experts to walk the worksite with you, pointing out issues you’ve observed. Look at the following:

    • Flooring (slip, trip and fall hazards)
    • Lighting (parking lot, stairwells, etc.)
    • First aid kit
    • Electrical cords on floors
    • Electric outlets and surge protectors
    • Stairway handrails
    • Fire extinguishers (recharge dates)
    • Defibrillator
    • Supplies storage (high shelves or stacked boxes)
    • Chemical storage
    • Building ventilation
    • Exit signs
    • Surveillance cameras
    • Icy outdoor walkways
    • Obstructed views (e.g. shrubbery near parking lot exits)
    • Secure entry to building, stairwells, your office
  4. Hold your first committee meeting

    The first time the committee meets, discuss the purpose of this new project, including the benefits it will bring to the company. Share the research you’ve conducted and the resources you’ve learned are available to help you. Next, discuss the common health and safety issues that arise at workplaces and how they might affect your company.

    Review who is allowed to perform specific tasks at your workplace, including employees, vendors, delivery companies, customers and guests. For example, who is allowed to sign for packages and where do they go once delivered? Who can answer the main phone, and what information are they allowed to give about other employees (such as email addresses, work hours, etc.)? Are guests, vendors, suppliers and delivery people required to sign in or provide an ID? Who cleans kitchen items, such as a coffee maker, microwave or refrigerator? Check out our article on breakroom safety tips for more ideas.

  5. Develop training materials and safety practices

    Think about how your company will handle the likely workplace health and safety issues it faces. This should include written employee education and in-person drills and training. You can get posters and guidebooks from government agencies. You might be able to arrange on-site first aid and CPR courses with the American Red Cross. Determine who at your company needs to be trained and/or participate in practice drills regarding the following issues:

    • First aid for minor and serious episodes (choking, heart attack, head wound, cuts and burns, broken bones)
    • Intruder
    • Assault
    • Building fire
    • Natural disaster – Tornado, blizzard, earthquake, hurricane or wildfire
  6. Create your plan

    Once you’ve audited your workplace, talked to experts, gathered resources and discussed your initial plans with your committee members, it’s time to draft your company health and safety policies, procedures and training programs. Your document should teach each employee what he or she needs to do to avoid problems and manage them if they occur. OSHA offers a wide variety of written safety plan samples you can use to help create yours.

    Include a list of the health and safety equipment your company has and where each item is located. Provide a list of emergency numbers to contact. This is a document that each employee should be required to read, followed by signing an acknowledgment that they have read and understand the company’s health and safety policies. You might need to show the document to your company attorney and/or insurance company.

  7. Solicit feedback

    Before you finalize your materials, get input from employees who are not on the committee to see if they understand your documents and to see if they have any suggestions, comments, advice or additions. Once you’ve received employee feedback, present your final document to the management person or people who will approve it.

  8. Communicate the plan

    Share your finalized plan with your employees, insurer and attorney. If possible, create an area on your company intranet that employees can access  24/7. Share any relevant pages with vendors, suppliers and delivery personnel to let them know about your new policies.

    Collect acknowledgments from employees to ensure that they have read the document. Continue to communicate your policies and procedures throughout the year with safety posters, employee memos and newsletters.

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