Workplace injuries and illnesses have a major impact on an employer's bottom line. It’s estimated that employers pay almost $1 billion per week for workers' compensation payments, medical expenses and costs for legal services. But indirect costs – including lost productivity, repairs to damaged equipment or property, and the cost of lower employee morale – can be just as damaging to a company.
top five safety best practices
Implementing a series of safety practices can help any business reduce or avoid the cost of injuries to their staff and damage to their equipment.
1. Establish Clear and Open Communication
An organization should be open and transparent with employees about safety practices. This should include readily available resource materials, such as safety posters and signage on the manufacturing floor, and OSHA employee resources such as Safety Data Sheets.
This level of communication is not just best practice, but also federal law. Employers must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards, and employees have the right to speak up about any concerns without fear of retaliation. Employees also have the right to:
- Receive information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace
- Be trained in a language and vocabulary they can understand
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace
- Receive copies of the results from tests and monitoring done to find and measure hazards in the workplace
- Get copies of their workplace medical records
2. Schedule Regular Safety Audits and Inspections
A workplace safety audit is the best way for a company to assess its safety management system and ensure they’re complying with all rules and regulations. This also helps the company identify and correct any oversights that could lead to workplace injuries. Information gathered from a safety audit can be used in designing new safety plans as well.
Audits should cover the entire workspace, from machines to offices. One way to do this is through a 5S audit - a bench-marking checklist that assesses how well a factory or an office is organized. Pioneered by the Toyota Motor Company, the 5S method measures the five principles of Sort (Seiri), Set in Order (Seiton), Shine (Seiso), Standardize (Seiketsu), and Sustain (Shitsuke) to help achieve a more organized and safer working environment.
Here at Sentry Equipment, we conduct an average of six audits per year per area. Inspections are done monthly or weekly, depending on the area. We also have two committees dedicated to safety: Our 5S audit committee and our safety committee, both of which carry a two-year term for members. This ensures that each committee is conducted by experienced team members dedicated to keeping our workplace safe.
3. Ensure Policies are Up-to-Date
All policies should be up-to-date and based on new regulations or legislation as they emerge, updated health information, or results from recent audits and inspections. These policies and any resulting changes should be communicated company-wide in a timely manner and updated promptly in any printed or online safety materials. Updates and communications are often one of the least challenging practices for companies to implement.
4. Conduct Regular Company-Wide Safety Training
Ideally, any training that could impact worker safety should begin at orientation. This is optimal as an employee is just learning a company’s safety culture and practices. Regular follow-up training sessions should also be held for all employees on a regular basis.
For example, we’ve designated a safety coordinator who conducts a safety orientation for all employee-owners after hire, which includes a PowerPoint presentation and 25-question test. In addition, those working in the factory receive comprehensive plant safety training per OSHA 1910 Plant Safety Regulations.
5. Develop a Culture of Safety
Safety should be top of mind for every employee, from the CEO to floor workers. The organization should also promote a level of inclusion and communication that makes it easy for employees to speak up when they see an unsafe issue at work. No one should be afraid to raise a safety issue, because no record is worth being unsafe.
Although this practice can be challenging to implement due to generational gaps between employees and lengthy cultural implementation, a culture of safety arguably has the most impact on an organization’s safety record and bottom line.
Following these best practices is the way we do business, and it shows. On July 23, 2019, our company celebrated an almost unheard-of safety record of 7,200 days without a lost-time incident in our factory. That’s more than 19 years without an incident – and we’re still going strong! We’re looking forward to another 20 years of a safe and efficient workplace by keeping these five best practices in mind.