The importance of having a well-designed workplace safety program can’t be understated. It helps protect the health and wellness of your employees, but it can do so much more. It will help your business by reducing costs incurred from accidents and by helping attract and retain employees.
Big benefits in business
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA®) says there are many ways businesses can see positive changes if they implement a workplace safety program (PDF), including:
- Improved morale
- Better recruiting and retention
- Improved image to customers, employees and the community
In addition to these benefits, one study showed that implementing an OSHA safety program decreased claims by more than 50% and lowered the cost per claim by 80%.
And you’ll reap the most important benefit: Knowing your staff is in a safe and secure workplace every day. If you’re looking to build your own culture of safety, check out these workplace safety tips.
Make safety job one
For the last three years, EHS Technician Daniel Bradley has been coordinating Wilsonart’s safety rewards program, using a combination of training, praise and incentives.
“We see OSHA and the other compliance-related organizations as the bare minimum,” Bradley said of the Fletcher, N.C., company. “Our goal is to look at those top safety performers’ ideas from all types of businesses to help our employees go above and beyond.”
Their hard work is paying off.
The company has lowered its incident rate over the last four years from 2.57% to 1.42%, with safety audits and incentive gifts playing crucial roles in the process.
“We audit employee safety every six months, and at the end of the year, we combine scores. And, the groups that exceed expectations, that’s who gets the gift,” Bradley said.
Make safety part of company culture
Creating a safe workplace is a continuous process. As you build a culture of safety, discuss it at every opportunity, such as:
- In the interview process
- During new employee training
- In the workplace on a frequent (even daily) basis
Daily safety check-ins can take multiple forms, from short discussions to daily stretching exercises at the beginning of every shift.
Make learning routine
Much the way machines require regular inspections and repairs, safety training also works best when maintained regularly. Setting a consistent training schedule and making sure everyone follows it will keep the team well versed on new procedures.
Because it’s critical that everyone keeps up to date, training shouldn’t be used as a reward or punishment. Treating mistakes and incidents as learning opportunities makes it easier to foster a culture of improvement. OSHA (PDF) emphasizes that an essential part of training is making sure your employees know where and how to report accidents. They should also be reminded that reporting accidents will not result in retaliation.
Wilsonart conducts monthly safety training. “We work together in groups to schedule safety training so that it’s spread out throughout the year, so they’re not doing two hours one month and 15 minutes another month,” Bradley said.
That culture of safety improvement is seen throughout the business. “We have safety professionals in place through several layers of the organization and are constantly researching and attending conferences to evolve our process so that we can be ahead of the injury before it happens,” Bradley said.
Use positive reinforcement
The statement “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” isn’t just a saying—it’s also backed by neuroscience. One study showed that offering praise for following safety procedures resulted in 90% compliance within four weeks.
Reminding staff you appreciate their help in keeping everyone safe encourages them to keep it up.
Wilsonart goes out of its way to recognize the positive short-term and long-term safety choices staff makes. “We do weekly safety contacts, letting employees know positive things they do on the safety side every week,” Bradley said.
The company also has a system in place to create systemic improvements—and a strong process for keeping up with it.
“We have a safety recognition process,” Bradley said. “Every six months, our teams have to score themselves on 10 categories, and if they exceed expectations on that score, they receive a gift at the end of the year.”
Past rewards include a Jerzees® NuBlend ¼-Zip Sweatshirt, a Jerzees Dri-Power Tri-Blend T-Shirt for men and women, a Crossland® Fleece Jacket for women and men and an Arctic Zone® Titan Deep Freeze Backpack Cooler. Because the gifts get so much use, they also serve as a reminder to employees to keep improving safety so they can get next year’s swag.
Encourage safety with branded incentives that let employees know you appreciate their help.
To be OSHA compliant, prizes cannot be awarded for inadvertently or purposefully discouraging employees from reporting injury or illness. OSHA recommends using incentives to encourage people to point out potential safety violations. OSHA suggests offering rewards or praise for:
- Providing safety suggestions
- Guiding a co-worker or new employee in a safety task
- Participating in a safety committee
Give employees ownership
Making employees aware that proactively improving safety comes with an extra perk has been a strong motivator, according to Bradley.
“When employees come to us asking why they didn’t get a gift, we tell them, ‘Go to your foreman to see where you fell short, and how you can get involved to help exceed expectations this time,’” he said. “By focusing on identifying risks and pushing the leading indicators that happen before an accident, our safety has improved, and employees get great gifts to wear with pride.”
Statistics bear this out, with one study showing that the top 25% of engaged workplaces had 70% fewer safety incidents than the bottom 25%.
Create a culture of safety
While creating a safety program from scratch might seem like a daunting task, OSHA offers multiple ways to approach it, from a simple 10-step process to get started (PDF) to a variety of workplace safety tips as well as a variety of cooperative programs.
Wilsonart’s workplace safety program has undoubtedly had positive results.
“Employees are happy, safety has improved, and employees are getting promotional items they love to use,” Bradley said.
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