How Strong Is Your Safety Program?
This is What Every Safety Program Needs...
Are your employees safe at work? Or more importantly, do they have the skills and tools to avoid accidents and be safe at work? There are many companies with impressive safety records, but they didn’t get there overnight. Unless you have a safety program in place, preventing accidents becomes a matter of luck.
A great safety record helps with establishing yourself as a reputable company. Many providers and contractors collaborate on project sites, and anyone can be injured if there is an accident. If you were the project owner, who would you prefer to work with? A company with tons of compensation claims for recent accidents, or a company with a track record of workplace safety?
To get an idea of how much safety programs are helping companies, we can look at some facts and statistics from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards in Canada (AWCBC).
- Back in the year 2000, the AWCBC reported a total of 392,502 lost-time claims due to injuries or work-related illnesses.
- By 2019, lost-time claims had dropped to 271,806.
Having a safety program is great for any company, but there is also a legal requirement for doing business. Keep in mind that safety regulations can change depending on the province, territory or state that you are working in. You cannot assume a company will meet safety regulations everywhere, even when you never have problems with the local OH&S authority.
If you want to have an excellent safety program, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has plenty of useful information. Here we will discuss the basic elements they recommend when creating a safety program.
1) The Safety Program Should Explain Responsibilities
Who is responsible for safety at work? Many of the CCOHS recommendations aim to make responsibilities clear:
• Individual responsibility
• Establishing a health & safety committee or representative
• Health & safety requirements: Local laws and your internal company rules
• Safe work procedures
You could put together a detailed list of safety procedures and resources and make it available to everyone in your company. However, you cannot enforce a safety program unless it has clear roles and responsibilities. By continually practicing safety and making it a priority in your company, you will start to create a safety culture within your organization that will keep safety on top of everyone’s mind.
2) The Safety Program Should Cover Orientation and Training
Why are OH&S regulations so demanding with training? Safety can be a complex topic, especially when dealing with hazards like high voltage, high temperature, and/or dangerous materials. Even if your workers recognize the importance of safety, they need specific knowledge and equipment to protect themselves.
For this reason, the CCOHS also covers training in their safety program recommendations:
- Worker orientation.
- Training and education.
- Health and safety promotion, including psychological health and prevention of harassment and violence.
- Workplace specific items.
With a good training program, you can make sure everyone has the right skills to stay safe. This not only applies for new hires, but also for long-time employees. Safety regulations and the technologies used by businesses are constantly changing, and there is always something new to learn.
Does your company provide a specialized product or service? A-well designed training program should also cover hazards that are unique to your industry. This is much easier with a Learning Management Software since you can customize learning paths for each job position.
3) Hazard Detection
Do your workers feel comfortable talking about safety? Even “near misses” require attention, since you may run out of luck the next time they happen. For this reason, your safety program should also cover hazard detection and reporting:
- Workplace inspections
- Hazard identification, assessment, and control
- Reporting and investigating incidents
How a safety program is received by employees depends on how you approach the topic. The last thing you would want is an environment when employees fear the program, and where they hide issues to avoid consequences. The safety program should not be handled like a class subject where they can “fail”, and the priority of inspection and reports should be keeping your employees safe.
4) Emergency Preparation
Having zero accidents would be ideal, but they can happen even with the best safety program. You should have clear procedures to deal with incidents:
- Emergency planning
- Medical and first aid
Your safety program should aim to reduce the impact of accidents that can’t be avoided, while helping you prevent similar ones in the future. Discussing this part of the program can be uncomfortable since it covers the worst-case scenarios. However, these scenarios are less likely to happen if your employees know how to mitigate accidents.
Reviewing the Health and Safety Program
Businesses are always changing and a safety program should continuously grow and adapt with it. Emerging technologies make companies more productive, but many of them also bring new risks. We must not forget that safety regulations are constantly reviewed and updated. Unless your safety program keeps up, it will become less effective over time.
CCOHS recommendations are a great starting point if you need to create a safety program or improve an existing one. However, you must make sure the program meets the needs of your company and industry. Safety software is a very helpful tool since it automates many tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming. For example, there is no need to keep a training record of each employee when the LMS can do it for you. Establishing a great safety program takes some leg work, but the payoff in decreased accidents and increased employee morale is worth every minute invested.