Does Your Company Need a Workplace Safety Plan?

As part of the business planning process, depending on the type of business you may need a workplace safety plan. Here is an overview of the issue.

There are actually two issues here: (1) How to develop a workplace safety plan for your company, and (2) Why such a plan is important, if indeed it is.

Let us look at things backwards here for a moment; after all, if a company safety plan isn’t important, there’s not much reason to figure out how to develop it. So – how to measure value. There are 14,000 voices that would speak to its value if they could: they belong to the men and women who lost their lives in workplace-related accidents during 1970, the last year before OSHA. We can’t ask them – but we could ask their children. Or we could ask every boss who has had to train someone new to take the place of someone injured or dead, and we would find them speaking of the human toll, and of the costs of lost manpower and productivity as well.

Enough said: safety is important. Forty-plus years of building a safer workplace has brought to us a deeply-held conviction that safety is more than good; it is every worker’s right. So how do we make our workplaces safe?

To create a safer place to work, begin by looking for gaps – supervisors who don’t support safety standards, or a lack of funding for even simple safeguards – stairway handrails, lighted landings and corners, protective goggles or hardhats. Then gather the data: how many and what sort of accidents are happening where and how often, for example, or where is safety gear being consistently worn or not worn, and are there accident records that reflect such safety practices – that sort of thing. Begin to get management on board by showing them how they benefit from less lost time and injury. Start requesting safety classes. Increase awareness and foster a sense of personal responsibility among workers across the board, and you will begin to be able to redefine the culture in which you work. This is the single most important thing that can happen in creating a workplace safety plan.

The best safety plans at any workplace are going to focus on recognizing hazards and understanding the amount of risk they pose. Each worker should be looking for what can hurt him, what can hurt others, probability of an injury, how severe can the injury be. Where there are too many hazards and too much risk, alternatives must be found. People should never be too willing to accept risk; rather, they should be constantly looking for safer solutions.

Here is a proactive pathway, focused on the prevention of fatalities and serious injuries, which can be adapted to almost any situation and still remain fluid and workable:

1. Identify the hazard or group of hazards that need to be addressed. Bring all the stakeholders to the table and together fashion a workable plan of change. Plan on meeting as often as necessary to develop the plan fully.
2. Make sure the plan meets all of the State OSHA requirements.
3. Make equally sure that the plan meets all of the Company requirements, which may in many cases exceed OSHA standards.
4. Institute and oversee comprehensive training of all employees, taking particular care that each subgroup of workers understands this new safety plan in the context of his or her situation.
5. Now – finally – move to fully implement the plan. Bring it up as quickly or as slowly as needed.
6. Verify that the plan is actually working. Talk to people. Document issues that arise during the initial startup period.
7. Validate the program; in other words, react to issues that may arise, monitor the outcomes from the changes brought about by the new way of doing things, and look carefully for any unintended effects, good or bad. Take corrective action as needed.
8. If at some point you see that your plan is not working in whole or in part, cycle back through steps 4-8. Change what needs changing and try again, as many times as it takes. Be willing to listen to what is being said.

Do not forget to review your safety plans regularly: look for things like the impact made by new personnel, a change in area hazards or risks, new equipment, etc; stay aware. Remember, safe workplaces are no accident. Be sure to consider if you need a workplace safety plan in your business plan.

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Why Your Business Should Care About OSHA Training

Guest Post by Steve.

Accident and hazard issues are some of the most detrimental and frequently occurring problems in the workplace today. Often people are injured or killed because of simple errors in judgment and protocol. For instance, years ago a warehouse worker at a business in Utah had his leg run over by a 10,000 lb forklift. The reason this happened? He forgot to set the parking brake on the machine and it rolled forward after he got out.

Since 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has operated on the basis of teaching good work habits to workers and supervisors throughout the United States. Their focus on keeping things clean, safe and orderly helps many jobs to remain free of serious hurt or deathly injury. Fines are imposed to encourage strongly the cooperation of all companies and employers.

Sadly, such a straightforward and simple guideline is not enough. Regardless of which rules and regulations are set on companies and individuals by OSHA, rules are not enough to ensure safety. Fines and inspections have only marginal affect on performance. The true way to get employees to be safe is to be safe as a manager and a company. Attitude reflects leadership on all levels.

Take for instance, a company like the one with the forklift episode. This company holds a safety meeting every month for an hour before work. The meeting covers topics from company fiscal standing to individual activities and a section on safety training. Once the meeting concludes, everyone goes out and works in the warehouse lifting steel and operating heavy machinery like cranes and forklifts. But there is a problem.

In this scenario, each employee can see the warehouse manager doing things preached against in the meetings such as speeding on forklifts, operating them in reckless fashion. In the yard, some see him lifting things in dangerous ways with body and machine. When he does repairs while in a man basket rigged to be on the forks of a lift, he doesn’t wear his harness.

Each of these observances speak volumes to the other workers. The loudest message of all is: safety doesn’t matter if I am in a hurry or I am having fun. A stern warning of “I am the boss” won’t do anything to correct it because the idea of being able to get away with it just trickles down the ladder. If the boss can do it, we can do it – if he doesn’t find out.

Safety requires training on all fronts. People need to be aware of potential hazards and possible solutions in crises. But nothing with substitute for the lack of caring that an absent minded or indifferent to rules boss will display. Employees will respond to the way they are treated. If they receive a fair shake and an honest example to follow, they will perform their labors carefully and methodically. If they are under the care of an unsafe supervisor, someone is going to get hurt.

Often, the mentality of management is to clean up a place right before an inspection and pass with flying colors. Yet, the point isn’t to look good for the inspectors – they come to make sure things are safe. If that is only a façade, the managers are simply hurting the company and its employees through lack of a real vision of safety. If safety doesn’t matter to the bosses, it won’t matter to the subordinates.

That is why there are the 30 hours training courses sponsored by OSHA. These courses instruct employers and supervisors on what a safe environment is and how to create it in their own companies. This is important in order to keep a workplace safe. By knowing what is safe and what is not, a truly caring employer will strive to avoid those pitfalls that will injure employees and tarnish reputations. These powerful courses will help create a vision of what should be done about safety in the minds of supervisors and managers. They will create a domino effect that travels throughout the work site and inspires people to work with that same mindset.

All supervisors and employers should take part in this training for the sake of the company, and the people who work there.

Making A Positive First Impression – In Person or Online

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

No doubt you’ve heard this phrase at some point or another. Whether it was your parents giving you dating advice or a professor helping you prep for a job interview, this saying is both obvious (of course you only get one chance, it’s a first impression) and insightful. But with so many of our personal interactions happening via mobile phones, social networks and the internet, when does that first impression occur?

First Impressions via Phone

I know it may seem a little old fashion, but some people still pick up the phone and call. If you’re a small business owner, every time the phone rings you could be talking to a new client for the first time. Answer politely and speak clearly. Smile while you’re on the phone (it helps the inflection of your voice). If you commit to do something, make a reminder after the call and follow through. This interaction will most closely mimic a face-to-face meeting, so it will often be the easiest.

First Impressions via Social Media

Whether it’s television, commercials, billboards or direct mail, you can’t escape Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. This means that more and more of your future customers will be encountering you here. What are people saying on your Facebook wall? Are you responding to mentions on Twitter? How are your reviews on Yelp or Google Reviews? Monitoring and participating in these discussions will help you make a better first impression.

First Impressions via Your Website

Google is the first place most people look for information about pretty much everything. If they find you, the first place they’ll go is your website. Does your site look credible? How easily can people find what they’re looking for? Do you make the buying process quick and painless?

For example, consider this site that sells zip code database. First, the site has a very simple layout with related content, no distractions and a clear call-to-action. Second, the navigation along the top of the site is clearly organized by gender and style. Lastly, the “Buy Now” button is very clearly placed on all product pages so you know the price and how to proceed.

Phone, social media and your website are all great opportunities to make a positive first impression. With a few simple tweaks you can improve these channels and improve your business.

Utilizing Surveys to Gather Information

taking a survey
When it comes to gathering information surveys are the way to go. There are several different ways to perform surveys; phone, internet, written, and focus groups are great options. Some of these surveys focus on visiting a specific store, customer service, a product, brand, marketing strategy, demographic information, etc. One piece of advise we give to smaller companies who are preparing their marketing plan is to perform surveys before they finish their plan to help give them a greater understanding of what the market is looking for to guide them. With this huge array of survey options companies, governments, schools, and other entities can really gain a lot of worthwhile information.

One of the troubles with surveys is getting enough information from people. Lots of times people don’t want to participate in the surveys that would be most beneficial to those companies because they take up so much time. Sometimes they’ll take up to 20 or 30 minutes. This is why lots of retail stores keep surveys short and sweet at the checkout counter or else offer some sort of incentive for taking the survey. A lot of incentives will include $5 off your next shopping trip or being entered into a drawing for a $500 gift card, etc. Consumers use directories to find top paid survey companies where they can get perks for taking surveys. This can help get more people motivated to take your survey.

These incentives still don’t always get the companies the information that they need and so often the longer surveys are paid surveys. No incentives, just flat out paid. Some sources claim that you can make anywhere from $5 to $75 on paid surveys (the latter price being less likely of course) that average out to be about 20-30 minutes in length.

Phone surveys are quite normal for political campaigns as well as retail chains or companies that come to visit your home to sell you something. This is how they gather information for each of the areas. Often the person calling will inform you that they are calling to do a survey and could you spare so many minutes of your time. They will either offer an incentive or not. They also might ask if there is a better time for them to contact you. Sometimes companies call and claim to be performing a survey, but in fact end up trying to sell you something.

Internet surveys are a great way for customers to participate in incentive surveys. Often on the bottom of receipts there will be a link to a survey site where they can enter their code and redeem their incentive. A lot of times when visiting websites there will be customer satisfaction surveys. These surveys pop up randomly when people visit and are a great way for the company to know how to improve the layout of their website. The internet is also the easiest way to perform paid surveys. Paid surveys are two fold – you can complete traditional surveys or else you can participate in mystery shopping and complete a survey online, after the fact.

Written surveys are found in stores every once in while. These surveys are most often found in doctors offices, dentists offices, eye doctors offices, and other medical and research arenas. They are often in schools as well. This is because these professionals want to know what you feel on a personal level and for your own benefit and not so much on a more general scale when compared to other people. They often have more specific and personal questions than other entities.

Finally focus groups are a great way for companies to star a conversation about their concerns. Generally 6-8 people will come in, and get paid, to sit and chat about a specific topic of concern for the company. They might discuss a brand, product, or marketing strategy.

Surveys are incredibly important to the overall understanding of companies and how they choose to improve and move forward.