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March 10, 2021 | Time and Attendance | Posted by Ascentis

How to Make Workplace Safety a Priority

Workplace safety is always a front-of-mind concern for human resources professionals, and in the current environment maintaining a safe and healthy workforce is a bigger concern than ever before. Not only is protecting workforce safety a necessity for keeping up productivity, regulatory compliance, and employee morale, it is now also a key factor in recruitment and hiring efforts.

A business with a demonstrable record of providing a safe and healthy environment for its workforce will be more appealing to high-quality prospective hires. That is a major consideration in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and construction, where turnover rates are consistently high and remote work is usually not an option. Let's take a look at a few key focal points where HR professionals in those industries can promote better workplace safety.

Training and education

The most effective approach to safety is almost always a pre-emptive one. While it is important to have plans in place for dealing with injuries and outbreaks when and if they do happen, it is ultimately more productive to provide your workforce with proper training and safety education that can help prevent those incidents before they happen. Establishing a clear set of safety guidelines bolstered by regular educational sessions can go a long way toward keeping all employees protected. A proactive learning management strategy is also hugely helpful for getting workers trained and certified in essential skills. Especially in higher-risk fields like healthcare, manufacturing, and construction, getting a wider range of workers trained to perform certain tasks or operate specific equipment can have a big impact on workplace safety.

While safety training might not sound like everyone's idea of an enjoyable day at work, these educational sessions can be integrated into your overall workplace culture. By structuring your training as team building exercises, possibly with small rewards for outstanding performance, you can not only help cement safety measures in workers' minds, but also establish them as part of an overall culture of teamwork and support. Other kinds of safety education will probably be better handled via individual training with your learning management system. Whatever your approach, a workforce that is prepared and trained to deal with emergency scenarios is more likely to react calmly and responsibly if and when genuine issues arise.

Compliance and certification

Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is certainly an employer's responsibility, and in many cases it's also a requirement. Keeping up to speed with the rules laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as various state and local regulations requires constant attention and a good deal of time from your HR team. In the era of COVID-19, those compliance concerns have been even more elevated. OSHA has put out regularly updated guidelines for COVID-related workplace safety. While these guidelines are not currently legally binding, bear in mind that employers who ignore them may be leaving themselves open to class-action lawsuits in the event of a workplace outbreak.

Making sure that all employees are properly trained and certified for their roles is another major compliance and safety concern. Especially in industries like healthcare, manufacturing, and construction, an untrained or inexperienced worker being entrusted with a role for which they are not qualified may be not only a compliance violation, but also a legitimate danger. Your HR team can help avoid that scenario by conducting regular certification audits, maintaining a learning management system that makes on-the-job training and education easier, and using automated scheduling software that alerts supervisors any time a shift requires a specific skill set or certification.

Record-keeping and reporting

Learning from past mistakes is an excellent way to avoid future ones. Keeping accurate, regularly updated records of all workplace safety concerns and incidents provides an employer with an excellent set of tools for preventing unsafe conditions. Referring to records of past incidents can help your HR team develop new policies to better suit the needs and concerns of your workers.

When issues do inevitably arise, having an up-to-date record can also help your team respond quickly and more efficiently. This can also be an invaluable tool for identifying outdated or malfunctioning equipment, inefficient practices and routines, and individuals or teams with repeated safety violations. All of that data can have a major impact on decisions about everything from purchasing to shift-scheduling to hiring and recruitment, all of which will in turn impact both productivity and profits.

Communication

It's an unfortunate truth that poor communication is responsible for as many workplace health and safety issues as are bad policies or unsafe practices themselves. Surveys have shown that more than half of American workers would not feel comfortable reporting unsafe practices to their human resources teams. This is a major issue for employers, as many safety hazards that are apparent in an active workspace may not be as obvious to management. By the time those issues draw the notice of people with the authority to make necessary changes, it may be too late.

Building a culture of open communication is vital to creating a workplace where employees feel comfortable and confident about their safety. Management should make it clear to all workers that they are welcome and encouraged to share any health and safety concerns without fear of repercussions. Providing workers with reliable communication tools can be a great benefit. (That includes providing multilingual communication options in workplaces where a diverse range of languages are spoken.) Keep in mind that it may not be enough to simply wait for employees to come forward with their concerns. Proactively soliciting feedback via employee questionnaires and one-on-one check-ins can elicit helpful insights that serve the safety needs of your entire workforce.

In an age where concerns about workforce safety are at an all-time high, no employer can afford to simply take a business-as-usual approach to their employees' health. An active, constantly evolving strategy of workplace safety is a necessity for every business in the pandemic era and beyond. Learn more about the ways automating your safety functions with Ascentis HR software can help you build a happier, more functional, and more productive work environment.