In every organization across the globe, workplace safety has become a necessary system to incorporate. In some entities, it is merely seen as a trend wherein practices are formed on paper, but they don’t reflect reality. Each organization should need to know that workplace practices are meant for enterprise productivity and are not merely a burdensome formality.
Gradually, employers have become conscious, and they are trying to introduce measures and maintain them consistently for employee safety and health, and thereby impact organizational productivity favourably. In this post, we will emphasize workplace health and safety, its importance, and some of the best practices for better organizational productivity.
Workplace Health and Safety: Definition
Employee or occupational or workers’ health and safety refers to the creation and provision of a healthy and safe environment that is inclusive of practices, policies, devices, and equipment. With the advent of the 2020 pandemic, the health and safety of employees has become a huge concern. However, even if the concept of work-from-home has been introduced and is growing rapidly, it has become more challenging for employers to know more about their employees’ health and safety.
Workplace Health and Safety: Significance
- When you incorporate these policies in the organization, the employees seek a profound understanding that you genuinely care for them. You ensure that their well-being is nurtured and they stay longer in your business organizations and in general. On the contrary, when an employer doesn’t care for the employees’ safety, they don’t feel like working in the same way and switch to better employers.
- If an employee is stuck in a health hazard, it leads to monetary losses and expenses for the employer. Hence, each country has formulated and made it mandatory for organizations to follow health and safety acts. If you don’t follow these rules, you are not responsible enough and will be subject to legal consequences and financial losses as well.
- When a worker or an employee is on-site, they might not feel safe working on certain critical projects where their lives are at risk. They will be anxious and scared to carry out their routine work in the field. But when health and safety practices are in place, they will feel safe and secure and will be engaged in the work without worrying or stressing about the equipment or the place.
- Since workplace safety has become a trend these days, it is necessary to be incorporated to portray a reliable brand image. The general public, shareholders, investors, and stakeholders will perceive you as a professional brand that takes care of its employees and not just focuses on profits.
- In several countries, it is a compliance procedure to have workplace safety and health practices in place. So, if you want to be a conscious entity that abides by all the said rules and regulations, you need to have a system in your organization.
10 Workplace Health and Safety Practices – for productivity and benefits as discussed above
In organizations where injuries and unfortunate accidents are likely to happen, the owners need to add workplace health and safety practices. But mere compliance with the laws is not sufficient; you need to have a concrete plan to promote employees’ and workers’ well-being.
Following are some of the valuable practices you need to incorporate in your organization.
1. Identify and list out all the potential health and safety hazards in your organisation
You should not straightaway formulate policies without an in-depth assessment. Proper identification of the possible hazards is a must before you figure out which policies to incorporate. Hence, take time and define and understand the possible hazards and unfortunate accidents to formulate suitable policies. You do not want an irrelevant policy in your organization. Some of the hazards are as follows:
- Ergonomics – Caring for employees’ posture as they invest in eight to nine hours of sitting work.
- Dangers of falling – Usage of strong ladders and other equipment to ascend the desired places.
- Dangerous chemicals – In chemical-based factories.
- Noise pollution – Factories, where noisy equipment is used and workers have to deal with them for extended hours.
2. Practices to protect workers from electrical hazards
Industries, where high-voltage electrical outlets are in use, can cause unfortunate accidents and risks to the workers. There could be an internal fire outbreak or can cause severe damage to the property and the workers. Some of the work practices to be carried out for worker’s protection are as below:
- Regular inspection of the workplace, wires, circuits, and other electrical units.
- Discarding the defective electrical equipment.
- Usage of personal protective equipment by everyone, documenting whether they use it or not through entries in suitable registers.
- Investigation of electrical hazards.
- Documentation of incidents and taking relevant action steps.
- A systematic process to follow when an undesired event takes place.
3. Practices to protect employees from toxic chemicals
When workers and employees do not use proper precautionary measures while handling toxic chemicals, it can lead to health hazards for an extended period. For example, some workplaces use corrosives, mutagens, and sensitizers that are harmful to health if protection equipment and measures are not followed. Even if you inhale them or come in contact with these chemicals, they can have long-term negative effects.
- Create a roster for employees to use the chemicals for a limited period. It means every employee must have a time constraint during its usage. If a certain employee is constantly in touch with the chemical, they might have to face the consequences.
- Usage of personal protective equipment – there must be constant supervision whether these protective devices are used or not. Employees must be reminded all the time to wear them.
- There must be review forms to know whether the employees follow suitable safety measures or not.
4. Practices to protect employees from machinery, tools, and fire incidents
Employees might not feel safe to work at certain construction sites, transportation, grill factories, and related places. There could be injuries such as burns, cuts, hearing loss, amputations, and so on, which need to be controlled and avoided through safety practices as below:
- Regular risk assessments.
- Regular maintenance of machinery and other devices.
- Usage of protective equipment such as earphones and others.
- Training to utilize tools and machinery properly.
- Incident report forms to investigate and document the accidents.
- Safety guards to supervise whether the protocols are followed or not.
- Fire exists and inform employees about the same.
- Fire drills.
- Fire extinguishers and training employees to use them during certain circumstances.
- Incident report forms to report fire incidents to the employer for further investigation.
- Avoiding electric overloads.
5. Formulate a health and safety communication plan
Each organization wants to build a safety-inclined workplace for employees and workers. It not only increases office productivity but also improves employee morale. Safety can be embedded as a core value. The safety communication plan contains all the important messages, announcements, updates, materials, and resources to educate employees at the right time. While crafting this plan, keep asking relevant questions as to whom the message needs to be communicated, what type of content needs to be delivered, how to reach them, and which important documents or messages need to be drafted.
Once your plan is ready, it will act as a blueprint and help you communicate with the employees about the right thing and at the right time.
6. Workplace theft practices to improve productivity
Workplace theft can occur in cash and non-cash forms. It happens when employees feel that a simple theft of stationery items or using the printer will not affect the organization adversely. Serious cases of theft take place when the employees want to seek revenge on their employers or are in dire need of extra money. It happens during billing and expense reimbursement. Some employees even state falsely that they have worked overtime but have not.
It is necessary to take the following measures to avoid and overcome the issue of workplace theft:
- Formulate anti-theft policies and incident reporting forms.
- Conduct anti-theft workshops.
- Training to managers in supervising such incidents.
- Proper tracking of expense reimbursements and limiting the cash transactions.
7. Creating a workplace grievance system
It is impossible to expect compliance with health and safety practices without the involvement of employees themselves. Some employees are too rigid, or they fail to accept the importance of these practices even if these are meant for their own good. Or some employees might not feel comfortable in adhering to the said policies.
Hence, it is essential to install a grievance redressal system and listen to what employees and workers have to say. Policies need to be set up or altered accordingly depending upon their feedback and suggestions.
8. Allow employees to participate in the policy-making process
Employee participation in formulating safety work practices is of utmost importance. Hence, every organization must not let out employees but add them to the process. Let them suggest solutions, define policies, talk about the current issues, report incidents and keep themselves safe. When they take the first step towards workplace safety, we are sure each practice mentioned in the list will work in a double-powered way.
9. Practices to prevent workplace harassment and abuse
Workplace harassment is in several forms such as verbal abuse, psychological abuse, bullying, ridiculing or mocking someone, or threatening or even discrimination based on grounds such as religion, race, language, etc. Harassment can be done by seniors or co-workers. You can do the following to prevent such irrational behaviour:
- Workplace incident reporting system to identify and report such practices.
- Staff education on such issues.
- Staff opinion must be considered and valued while formulating such policies.
10. Use of technology in workplace health and safety practices
The traditional methods of communication do not let employees know about the workplace health and safety policies. It takes time to inform the employees and keeping them updated about the same. You can develop an employee app to interact with them continuously. Similarly, the employees should be given easy access to the important documentation of the company. In short, digital technology is an effective way to streamline Standard Operating Procedures.
Including the above workplace health and safety practices in every organization are essential and should be considered.
The majority of businesses focus on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that relate to profit and growth. Planning, therefore, centers on factors such as improving market share and forecasting future shortages and surpluses.
Whilst it can be more difficult to measure, the adoption of solid workplace health and safety (WPHS) practices can also have a significant effect on your bottom line. There are both quantitative and qualitative benefits to be gained by implementing an effective WPHS policy. In fact, your company’s future resilience and success may depend on it.
“Directors must have an understanding of the role safety performance plays in the performance of their business. In accepting corporate responsibility for health and safety, directors need to be proactive in developing a positive safety culture for their workplace. In the long-term this leads to an internal cultural shift that can have an indirect impact on external brand affinity and brand loyalty.” according to David Rowland, Head of Marketing at Effective Software
Studies carried out by the World Health Organisation and International Labour Organization indicate that the economic costs of workplace illness and injuries average 4% of GDP for countries across the world. For an individual business, this equates to the loss of production, sick leave costs, and increased liabilities. By making WPHS a priority, companies can ensure that employees are:
- more productive and produce a higher quality of work
- less likely to take sick leave which lowers costs and reduces disruption
- able to work at their best due to optimized equipment and fewer WPHS risks
- less likely to require insurance payouts
These considerations can ultimately contribute to improved gross profit margins and positive outcomes for shareholders.
Businesses that are unwilling to improve WPHS practices can ultimately face consequences that ate not immediately obvious. In the industrialized world, employees, investors, and consumers are making decisions that are not solely based on financial factors.
Employees: Businesses thrive when they hire the best employees for the job. Whilst workers usually demand a fair salary, a solid WPHS program will also attract employees who are seeking good working conditions and happy colleagues. A motivated, experienced workforce ultimately results in higher productivity.
Investors: Long-term resilience, as well as dividends, is important for investors when deciding where to put their money. A safe, productive workplace with a stable employee base would be an attractive option.
There is also an emphasis on ethical considerations when making long-term financial commitments since poor publicity about WPHS can quickly destroy a business’s profit margins.
Customers: Brand loyalty is very important in ensuring consistent profit margins and growth. Having a reputation for caring about employee welfare is one part of the mix in retaining brand loyalty. Just as poor publicity about a business’s WPHS practices can affect investments, it can also affect consumers’ willingness to engage with your product.
WPHS and the Bottom Line
Businesses ignore the importance of a well-implemented WPHS strategy at their peril. Skilled employees, high production levels, good quality, and a positive brand image are vital for a business to survive long-term. In addition, it only takes one critical incident for a company’s reputation and profits to plummet.
A salutary example comes from an Australian theme park. The previously profitable park estimates losses of at least A$84 million in 2017/18 due to poor WPHS practices which resulted in the deaths of four customers. The park is also facing psychological damage payouts to the employees involved.
WPHS and Your KPIs
When the time rolls around to make your annual plans, make sure that you build in ways to measure the effects of improved WPHS practices on your KPIs. By assessing both quantitative and qualitative factors, you will be pleasantly surprised.