Every business should have its safety standards outlined in its policies and procedures. But no amount of planning can completely avoid the risk of accidents occurring. In fact, the most recent count of employer-reported workplace injuries reached 2.9 million in the private sector alone. This demonstrates the importance of reinforcing your guidelines to ensure that your employees enjoy a hazard-free working environment.
Here are the top 19 workplace safety tips from the pros:
1. Know How to Identify and Report Safety Hazards Immediately
Jenny Pearce, Owner, Happiness and Healing with Horses
This refers to their safety and the safety of others and to talk about what that means in the context of what they’re doing. This sounds like such an obvious thing that it’s easy to miss making it the big deal that it is. I want people THINKING about their safety and FEELING safe. I also want them listening to what I call their intuition that something is “Not quite right” and taking action to keep themselves and others safe. Safety ethics should be on auto-pilot. There’s a deep and personal commitment to safety involved in this step and without it, every other workplace safety tip is just window dressing. Given that people are often not taught that safety is such a big deal, this step requires reinforcement by constant talking about it and drawing people’s attention to it.
2. Create an Emergency and Disaster Plan
Sage Singleton, Safety Expert, SafeWise
When the unexpected occurs, it’s important to be prepared with an emergency action plan. Safeguard your small business by having a process in place. Practice routine fire drills, earthquake or storm drills with your employees. Have employees keep snacks and water at their desks in case of an emergency or disaster. Update your office first-aid kit. Make sure your important data is backed up regularly and that the backup is located remotely. Inventory all office items for insurance purposes. This will minimize losses, and help secure your business.
3. Prioritize Safety Even for the Smallest of Tasks
Leigh Manning, Senior Safety Management Consultant, SAIF
Remember that little things you do around the workspace can make a big difference when it comes to safety. For instance, if you work in a kitchen, educate employees on which knives to use for the job. Make sure you have a step stool available so workers aren’t using a box, and consider where you place things in the pantry—you want the heaviest ingredients in the middle shelves so you don’t have to bend or reach.
4. Create a Safety Task Force
Sheila Kilpatrick, Vice President of Operations, RUPCO, Inc.
Our best resource for finding solutions to workplace safety issues is our staff. Last year, we assembled a six-person “Safety Task Force” to review our safety manual, along with building, property and internal protocols focused on keeping our offices, residences, clients, tenants and employees safe. Asking our staff directly about what they felt was needed has surfaced a few problems we’d been blind to. Staff-suggested solutions made them feel valued and safer upon implementation. For example, our receptionist wanted a button at her desk, a buzzer to alert her supervisor if she was having trouble upfront. This suggestion made us think about the safety of staff working one-on-one behind closed doors, often where a client is between the staffer and exit. We hadn’t originally considered this “escape from conflict” strategy until we asked for staff input. This new business strategy for us — getting input from those whose safety is at risk — has produced common sense remedies to everyday problems, many at no- or low-cost.
5. Introduce Toolbox Talks
Mark Pauley, Director, Safety Training Scotland
Health and safety training can be a drag, and we often see that people send only the absolute minimum away for training. This is a shame. As a compromise, actually more of an upgrade if you ask us, toolbox talks should be introduced. A toolbox talk is a four-minute discussion on a specific health and safety topic, and helps keep everyone on top of their health and safety game, and as a result this helps keep the workplace a lot safer. Schedule weekly five-minute brush-ups with all staff, brew some coffee, and make sure everyone knows their basic health and safety. There are lots of important things to cover, as a small business start with: first aid in the workplace, manual handling and fire safety. The best time to start new habits and set ground rules for how your business should be run, is when you’re starting out. It’s easy to introduce something new when you’re five people, introducing 500 to something new is bit trickier.
Make learning opportunities a fun experience for your employees. Check out Fit Small Business’ list of team ideas from the pros.
6. Regularly Conduct an Employee Safety Survey
Spencer Coursen, Threat Management Expert, Coursen Security Group
A safety survey should be repeated at regular intervals and should cover everything from how staff feels about management’s commitment to safety, to the effectiveness of safety training, and the ease of reporting concerns. The answers should provide employers with insights into favorable feedback, procedures in need of improvement, and priority areas of concern. Conduct an honest assessment to discover the most realistic risks you are most likely to face, and then ask what safeguards are in place to prevent those risks from becoming a reality. Here’s a hint: In the wide divide between business policy and employee practice is where the risks of harm often hide. Inspect what you expect.
7. Have a Go-To OSHA Resource for Employees
Joe Flanagan, Senior Career Advisor, VelvetJobs
I’ve created a go-to OSHA resource — a guide that covers many modern factors including resources for employers and employees, podcasts, blogs and social groups. This Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resource guide aims to be the most comprehensive free guide available and do the legwork of making complying with OSHA as easily as possible. It includes a wide range of resources and can be found here.
8. Keep the Workplace Well Lit at All Times
Greg Bullock, Marketing Manager, Theraspecs
At TheraSpecs, we believe that protection from fluorescent lighting and device screens falls into the category of critical “workplace safety”—notably because they can trigger people with light-sensitive conditions and/or simply make workers feel sick. All of these directly affect employee productivity, health and happiness on the job. Some simple suggestions on how small businesses can address lighting triggers in the office include: reducing or diffusing fluorescent lighting in the office, installing f.lux on office computers or the app for mobile devices—this removes harmful blue light for a more soothing experience to the eye and brain purchasing anti-glare covers for computer monitors, trying out precision-tinted FL-41 glasses—such as TheraSpecs which also filter out blue light and the invisible pulsing in fluorescent lights, and not encourage the wearing of sunglasses in the office; although this can be a popular solution, this actually makes people more sensitive to light over time
9. Train Employees and Set Guidelines on Good Housekeeping
Ellie Collier, Content Author, High Speed Training
A safety tip that’s important in all workplaces is the necessity for good housekeeping. Good housekeeping means that you always work to keep your workplace tidy and free from hazards. All employees must be trained in the importance of this, and all should know how to recognize and rectify any instances of poor housekeeping. Poor housekeeping can cause a multitude of hazards, many of which are hidden. Tripping over stacked boxes, slipping on wet surfaces, and being hit by falling objects are just some of the consequences of poor housekeeping. Some easy tips that everyone should adopt for good housekeeping include: ensuring all spills are cleaned up immediately, keeping aisles, stairways, and walkways clear. You must never block fire routes or exits, as this could be catastrophic in the event of an emergency, storing tools and pieces of equipment in a safe place and clearing any hazards immediately after noticing them.
10. Always Keep a Clear Pathway to Emergency Exits
Brad M. Shaw, President and CEO, Dallas Web Design Inc.
As a business owner, I take these precautions very seriously, and I make sure to implement the right safety procedures to ensure that all my employees are safe. One way to observe this is to take the initiative to keep your emergency exits easy to access. In time of a fire, an earthquake, or any nature related disaster, a clear pathway to your emergency exit can save lives.
11. Stand More, Move More
Coleman Collins, Author, The Road Warrior Blog
One in four occupational injuries are low-back-strain related, causing US $100 billion per year in unnecessary medical bills, lost work time, and other costs. While a number of these are undoubtedly lifting-and-twisting related, many are not. They are related to what experts call “static work postures” — that is, extended sitting, often in a poor posture or compromised position, especially when combined with poor ergonomics. Thankfully, the solution is a simple as the problem: encourage your employees to sit less. Stand more. Move more. Sit-stand desk options and other architectural and ergonomic interventions like monitor risers and ergonomics consulting can help, as can simple cultural shifts like occasional standing meetings and encouraged regular “desk breaks.” I’ve also seen company- or team-wide ‘step competitions’ (tracked via pedometer) be highly effective.
12. Treat All Electrical Circuits as Live
Brett Brenner, President, Electrical Safety Foundation International
As an electrical safety organization, we focus on workplace safety for small electrical contracting businesses, and other fields that may work with electricity, such as construction. It’s important to treat all circuits as live until tested. Every year, thousands of workers are injured or killed by circuits they thought were safely turned off and simply shutting off the power is not enough. Make sure to always “test before you touch”. This should be conducted by someone who is qualified for the job to identify potential hazards and wearing personal protective equipment. A qualified person would know how to de-energize the circuit, ensure lockout/ tagout procedures are implemented, test the circuit, and verify the testing device.
13. Post Safe Driving Reminders and Tips Near the Exits
Donna Bayless, Partner, RightLane
Most everyone drives. And driving your car is probably the most dangerous thing the overwhelming majority of us will do on a daily basis. Companies with strong safety programs encourage their employees to drive safely, wear their seatbelts and put their cell phones down, while being more patient and courteous drivers. Getting home safely after a long day at work, whether you’re in a vehicle or at a desk, is what it’s all about.
14. Ask Employees to Dust their Area Before Starting Their Workday
Nate Masterson, Director HR, Maple Holistics
Besides for maintaining a clean workplace, removing dust is one of the most fundamental workplace safety responsibilities. Although it may seem harmless, overaccumulation of dust can pose serious fire and explosion risks. However, be sure to never clear dust with compressed air. If the dust levels are high enough, they may explode upon contact with lights or other electrical equipment. Additionally, dust shouldn’t just be a concern for people with allergies. Airborne contaminants could potentially lead to both serious respiratory and non-respiratory illnesses. High-efficiency vacuums are the best way to remove dust on a large scale, but simply wiping down surfaces is also effective.
15. Adopt a Buddy System in the Workplace
Paul Ormerod, Director, Nisbets Australia
For any business, protecting your employees by putting opening/closing time protocol in place is critical for keeping your employees safe. Implementing a safety plan for escorting employees to and from their cars (specifically, women walking to their cars alone at night) is a key strategy in keeping your team safe. While there is safety protocol that needs to be followed within the 9-5 workday, addressing items such as never scheduling just one employee to close up shop or putting a key entry lock on the office door entrance are just as important as wearing eye safety glasses or washing your hands before returning to your server station.
16. Address Workplace Emotional Security
Spencer Chambers, Owner, The Chambers Organization
I think there is a new conversation to be started about workplace emotional security, meaning not your actions but how are you processing things internally. Do you know what the actual line is and how to deal with it? What if you have emotions for someone and do not know how to properly express them from your position at work? How do you know if you are being harassing or if you have simply grown fond of someone and would like to make this known to them in the most professional way? This all goes back to what is the proper way to think about this, especially with there being so much pollution around this topic currently. It all seems to point to keeping work and dating separate, but this ignores the fact that a lot of people have begun healthy, even life-long relationships in their workplace. At the end of the day, this is why you need to have proper emotional and mental interaction guidelines in place when it comes to romantic relationships in the workplace.
Learn more about workplace safety from the occupational safety and health act. Check out Fit Small Business’ federal labor laws every small business should know.
17. Be Careful When Working with Office Equipment
Joanna Douglas, Owner, Clean Affinity Cleaning Service
If you ask me, there are a lot of dangerous office equipment out there that can cause physical harm to who ever doesn’t know how to operate it. If you do not know how to use it, or if someone ends up misusing the machines or any type of dangerous equipment in the office, you could get hurt. So, always read up on the user manual or ask someone to assist you if you don’t know how to use it. Employees needs to know the importance of reporting to superiors any hazardous or dangerous conditions around the office. Sometimes, people in the office could be missing a spot. If you or your employees see something that can potentially harm people, make sure to let your supervisors or immediate boss know of the situation, so that they can attend to the problem immediately.
18. Maintain Cleanliness in the Workplace to Help Reduce Workplace Stress
Harrison Doan, Director of Analytics, Saatva
This includes everything from overtime responsibilities to having a clear desk when you come in every day. In many severe cases, constant stress from work can result in anxiety due to consistent overthinking. At the end of the day, employees need to be able to disengage and know that it’s okay and encouraged to do so. In less severe cases, aggression at and outside of work, mood swings, and headaches are common workplace stress injuries and ailments. A stressful environment doesn’t produce present, productive employees. As a small business owner, the best thing to do is check in with your employees and make sure they aren’t taking on too much extra work. Ensure the environment is clean, comfortable, and conducive to collaboration.
19. Equip Your Workplace with Safety Tools, Guides and Equipment
Lynn Simmons, OSHP, Owner, Commercial Risk Management of Kansas City
While all businesses are different and each industry has its own unique exposures, there are many common areas a small business can look at to increase overall safety and mitigate risk. Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers should be present and properly installed. Handrails on stairs should have vertical balustrades in order to prevent small children from falling. Emergency lighting and illuminated exit signs should be present in common areas. Use of extension cords should be minimal, and cords should never obstruct aisles or walkways. Maintain a three-foot clearance around water heaters, furnaces, and electrical panels. Uncoiled hoses and cracked sidewalks present trip hazards. This simple activity can help you improve safety and reduce risk on a continuous basis.
Over To You
Prevention will always be better than a cure, and this applies even to a company as a whole. With a safe working environment comes better productivity. You not only ensure the safety of your employees, but your property and equipment as well. Consider these tips in your next safety guidelines review.
Do you have unique workplace safety tips to share? Let us know in the comments!