Safety in the workplace is an essential concern across all industries. Depending on where you work, the legal regulation of workplace safety can be quite detailed. For example, Australia has a nationwide set of model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to be implemented by each individual jurisdiction according to their specific circumstances. Here are five strategies to improve your own workplace safety standards no matter where your business is located.
Discover and address vulnerabilities
Speak to your employees and ask them if they feel safe at work. Cover concerns like accidents, hazards, accessibility, transport safety, etc. Even if employees are physically not at risk, they may feel mentally and emotionally uneasy and unsafe. Listen attentively to any concerns.
Frequently overlooked or disregarded workplace vulnerabilities include:
- poorly lit stairwells, halls, and parking,
- lack of security cameras,
- insufficiently varied security codes,
- former employees still having access,
- unsafe happenings in the neighbourhood, etc.
Conduct regular inspections
Keep on top of any risk by conducting regular inspections and maintenance of your space and equipment. Have a set interval for the assessments. They can be annual, semi-annual, monthly etc., whatever best suits your business cycle.
You can also bring in third-party experts for this job. Not only does it lessen the workload on you, but it also eliminates any risk of in-house bias. An Aussie business could consult a reputable fit out company in Sydney for an assessment and, if necessary, improvements to their space.
Such inspections should be tailored to your company’s unique configuration. This refers to the workplace itself as well as to people’s behaviour. Factors include but are not limited to:
- points and means of access to the building
- contact with the public
- contact with hazardous materials
- contact with valuables
- employee identification methods
- security and monitoring equipment
- emergency exits and evacuation routes
- prescribed protocols for specific scenarios
- visitors to the business
- violent intruders
- fire or inclement weather, etc.
Develop and implement zero-tolerance policies
Sometimes the greatest risk to workplace safety is the employees themselves. Develop strict no-tolerance guidelines regarding harassment of any kind, discrimination on any basis, violence (including mental, emotional, and cyberbullying), and destructive behaviours towards persons and property.
Following through on zero-tolerance policies can be challenging, but is a necessary long-term investment into a safe work environment. Many minors, seemingly insignificant incidents are signs of a belligerent employee testing company boundaries.
Resist the temptation to gloss over things like derogatory interactions in the lunchroom, graffiti in the bathroom, or neglecting the office pets. Letting minor incidents go condones poor behaviour and encourages a potentially dangerous person to escalate into a genuine threat.
Any time an employee violates the safety guidelines, leadership should address it immediately. The person should be sternly reminded of the zero-tolerance policy and disciplined appropriately for the violation. It is generally good practice to have three or four degrees of discipline: a warning, a fine or revocation of a privilege, a suspension, and permanent termination.
Train employees to report concerns
Make workplace safety an integral aspect of company culture. Encourage your employees to freely reach out to leadership with any workplace vulnerability concern, be it technical or interpersonal. If the employee has an idea of how to address a said concern, or improve safety overall, management must welcome it.
Give genuine consideration to all feedback, even if the suggestion doesn’t end up being implemented. Respond to the problem and propose viable alternative solutions. Employees will not raise concerns if they feel that management has dismissed them in the past, which exponentially increases safety risks at the workplace.
Nurture a culture in which employees will feel comfortable enough to report problems such as:
- lost keys or identification
- any form of workplace harassment
- suspicious, inappropriate, or hostile behaviour in colleagues, leadership, or clients
- flickering light bulbs, weird smells, and any other potential hazards
- domestic or private issues that could affect their work, etc.
Reward catching close calls
Finally, to really cement workplace safety policies, reward the people who actively comply with them. Employees often underreport their own issues, and office dynamics may pressure people into keeping staff problems and general incidents under wraps.
Counteract this with appropriate incentives. Any time anyone reports a problem, especially a time-sensitive one, make a note of it. At the end of a period, e.g. a month, draw a few names and recognise them in front of the company. You can reward individuals, teams, or entire departments.
Make a point of rewarding reports of different risk categories. This normalises sharing concerns in all fields and motivates everyone else to participate. The overall result is increased collective vigilance, improved workplace safety in all aspects, and a more proactive safety office culture.
Workplace safety heavily depends on monitoring and communication. Regularly evaluate your business space, equipment, and procedures, and perform maintenance or updates where necessary. Foster a transparent and supportive office culture where employees will feel comfortable reporting any concerns. Give all reports due attention. Discipline hazardous behaviour and inappropriate conduct of any kind, and reward compliance with safety policies and proactive risk reports.