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.