More than 1,000 complaints pertaining to unsafe working conditions have been filed in the Chicago area, a November 2020 article published on the website of WBEZ Chicago revealed.
On a national scale, complaints of similar nature have reached 31,000, reflecting a serious issue facing employees who have no choice but to work amid these highly challenging times.
The majority of the complaints, which include direct exposure to the COVID-19 virus, were from manufacturing and medical workers, but employees from the service sectors and public facilities filed their grievances, too. Employers have the social and moral responsibility to protect their employees from all forms of threats in the workplace. With the pandemic showing no signs of stopping anytime soon, it’s even more critical for business owners to strengthen their health and safety standards.
Cornerstones for Occupational Health and Safety Program
With or without pandemic, below are the important principles of occupational health and safety that need to be guide organizations in setting up their own health and safety programs:
- Conduct health and safety hazards risk assessment
- Create guidelines and policies, as well as procedures that work
- Active participation of all employees in establishing a culture of safety is needed
- A committed leadership that’s dedicated to uphold the standards
- A well-trained staff
- Constant review and improvement of health and safety protocols
Applying the abovementioned principles, here are some of the ways that businesses and organizations can enhance health and safety in the workplace:
Improving Health Safety in the Workplace
According to the Occupational Safety and Hazards Authority (OSHA), one out of five work-related deaths are attributed to the construction sector. Because of the nature of their jobs, workers in the construction industry are highly susceptible to what the OSHA calls the “Fatal Four Hazards”. These include accidents such as falls, electrocution, getting struck by an object, and being caught in between objects.
Workplace accidents are by no means exclusive to the construction settings. Even in office, employees may fall victim to occupational risks. For instance, overexertion, slip and fall, and other injurious accidents can happen to workers, wherever they may be.
Ideally, occupational hazards and any form of personal injuries should be handled internally. In cases where an in-house medical specialist may not be available, you can seek help online. You can check www.injuredcalltoday.com to see different services online.
Fostering A Culture of Safety
Every organization is responsible for maintaining and promoting workers’ health and safety, companies should show commitment and exert all efforts to ensure staff safety and well-being.
The executive and management levels need to be committed to safety, conducting visits to facilities and interviews with everyone, especially those who play key roles in implementing safety rules. Executives must be able to assess and monitor the proper implementation of these standards and make the necessary changes.
Promoting a safe culture isn’t a one-way street. While organizations hold the primary responsibility, the staff play a key role in enforcing it. Hence, employees should have adequate practical knowledge and training to achieve health and safety objectives, and in preventing workplace injuries.
Forging a culture of safety at all levels in the organization is easier said than done. It takes a lot of time, and sometimes, one accident to identify the hazards and vulnerabilities.
Conducting Risk Assessment(s)
Risk assessment is an important component in creating, developing, and enhancing a company’s health and safety program. An assessment is essential for the following reasons:
- It creates or improves risk and threat awareness
- It clearly identifies who is at risk and why
- It determines whether the current measures are effective
- It helps suggest the steps needed to improve your measures
- It can help prevent injuries and health problems
- It helps you prioritize the type of hazards that need to be addressed ASAP
- It ensures compliance with state and federal rules on health and safety
Assessments should be done regularly, and most especially if the company is planning to introduce new rules or processes and when risks are identified.
Seeking Professional Assistance and Advice
Occupational clinicians and other types of industry-specific specialists can help you minimize health and safety risks and hazards, in almost every workplace setting. These safety experts will visit all your on-site and off-site facilities to conduct a thorough inspection and assess, as well as determine your vulnerabilities to workplace accidents.
In this time of the pandemic, organizations may try asking a healthcare expert to see how structural or procedural changes can be made to help make your employees feel safe and protected against the virus.
Providing Information Access to All Employees
Knowledge is power. Make all resources available to all your employees via your internal data-sharing platform. Require your staff to read and understand all the documents, instructional safety videos, presentations, and any other tools and safety-related documents.
Making all sources accessible to your employees shows that the company is serious about promoting staff safety. Accident reports, investigations, and other information should also be placed in this database to allow your staff to know what has been done and what needs to be done in specific situations.
Just as the management is able to relay information in all channels, employees should also be comfortable in expressing their feedback, reactions, and thoughts about the safety measures in place. Think of a way to make information exchange more efficient by creating a suggestions box, making a separate file for all questions, suggestions, and safety tips your staff may want to share.
Placing Clear Messages in Key Areas
Part of safety rules requires establishments to have clear entry and exit points, as well as functional tools and pieces of equipment available in case of emergencies.
Writing down the signs and labels clearly will help your employees identify the areas that offer safe passage in terms of natural hazards such as fire and earthquake.
Also place warning signs and symbols that convey clear messages about the functions and dangers attributed to a specific area, safety tool, or equipment.
Promoting Employees’ Wellbeing
Showing appreciation to your employees can’t exclusively be measured by monetary values. To show your staff that they’re invaluable, take steps to ensure that you care about their health and well-being.
Ensure that they have all the resources they need to perform their work properly. Invest in technology, upgrade their computers, software, and chairs or tables.
Make sure that all the pieces of equipment and tools, as well as the office fixtures and appliances are serviced, cleaned, and maintained properly. Don’t allow a malfunctioning machine to pose a health or safety hazard.
In addition, initiate programs that improve our staffs’ physical and mental well-being. Make Fridays more exciting by hosting a cocktail night. Have a psychologist visit the office every now and then to discuss mental health, or conduct confidential dialogues with workers who may feel down, anxious, and depressed because of the pandemic, or for any other reasons.
Even small things like providing them with face masks, face shields, hand sanitizers, and other forms of disinfectant, can mean a lot to your employees.
Implementing A Reward and Punishment System
Show that your company is serious about implementing the rules by imposing punishments for safety breaches.
In the same manner, be generous with compliments. Acknowledge employees who’ve shown compliance to the rule or those who’ve displayed the correct response to a potentially hazardous situation. A reward system adds to your employees’ motivation to foster a culture of safety.
Maintaining health and safety in the workplace isn’t a one-off deal. It requires organizations to regularly study and update their measures, guidelines, and procedures to keep up with various changes. These changes may be tied to a fresh approach, a new management and executives, business expansion, new facilities, and additional pieces of equipment.
Simply put, it should constantly evolve along with the changes in the organization.