Every year, more than 2 million American workers are hurt badly enough on the job that they can’t go back to work and require continuing medical care. But while workplace accidents are common, many are completely preventable. As an employer, you have certain legal responsibilities to protect the health and safety of your workers. But it’s also up to your employees to be alert, aware, and make safety practices a priority.
Some of the most helpful practices for preventing and avoiding workplace accidents include eliminating shortcuts, implementing emergency drills, and being aware of inherent job risks. You and your employees should remain on guard against any potential causes of accidents. Posting safety guidelines and unanimous participation in safety programs can make a big difference in eliminating workplace accidents.
1. Eliminate Shortcuts
Shortcuts can be very tempting, especially when you’re on a deadline. When the end of the day or week is approaching, employees may be eager to get a job over with as quickly as possible so they can finish up and go home. That’s understandable, but shortcuts breed danger and are a leading cause of accidents.
Instead of allowing employees to take shortcuts, make sure they follow safety instructions and get the job done right. If a particular job may not be finished before the end of the day, it’s better to finish it tomorrow or next week than to rush the job and potentially cause an injury. Remind your employees that nothing will spoil their weekend plans like a trip to the hospital! Make sure your employees are comfortable with any given procedure before they begin to implement it.
2. Conduct Emergency Drills — And Require Participation
Emergency drills ensure that if an emergency occurs, employees know what to do and can follow the emergency plan without uncertainty or confusion. Have regular emergency drills so that employees know what to do in emergency situations — for example, if there’s a fire, you want everyone to automatically file out in an orderly fashion and you want them to know where the nearest exits are. Make sure all of your employees pay attention and participate in the emergency drills, and do so yourself. Those who don’t pay attention or participate during emergency drills are those who will be in the most danger should an emergency actually occur.
3. Be Aware of and Prepared for Inherent Risks
Every job has inherent risks. Even office workers are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome from typing too much and headaches, eyestrain, or neck and back pains from hunching over a computer desk. Every employee should be aware of the risks associated with any job-related task, and should know what to do to minimize those risks. When you assign a new task to an employee, explain the inherent risks and what can be done to minimize them.
4. Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Potential Causes of Accidents
If you see an accident waiting to happen at work, don’t just sit back and wait — do something about it before it happens. That means repairing unsafe areas, but it also means saying something to employees who are engaging in unsafe work practices.
Since you can’t be everywhere at once, encourage your employees to say something to you if they see another employee doing something that isn’t safe. Make the reporting system anonymous so people are more likely to use it. Alternatively, appoint several employees to a safety team who can help you keep an eye out for unsafe work practices.
5. Post Safety Guidelines and Require Unanimous Participation in the Safety Program
Posting safety guidelines around the workplace guarantees helps keep workers aware of safety best practices. Make sure the safety guidelines are very visible and easy to read. Implement a workplace safety program — and make sure everyone participates in it, including you. Employees will resent being asked to participate in a program that doesn’t include their employers, too, and safety is just as much your concern as it is theirs, anyway.
Sometimes workplace accidents are unavoidable, but most of the time you can protect your employees, your business, and yourself from accidents that could result in tragedy. Make workplace safety a priority, so you and your employees can all enjoy years of job satisfaction, productivity, and good health.