Safety programs: Safety starts with prevention

This is the first post on a series of entries on safety programs. Future posts will include details on accident investigations and the promotion of safety.

After a dozen-plus years in managing absence and disability, I suppose it’s only natural that I’ve become very conscious of safety hazards. After all, the best way to manage disability is to prevent it, right? Whether wandering the streets of Seattle with my wife (reminder to self: contact the power company about that broken utility plate on the sidewalk) to walking the halls of my office building (what if someone trips on those boxes?!), safety always seems to be on my mind.

Prevent workplace hazards
Most employers and HR professionals will likely be faced with a workplace accident at some time or another — something our business partners in safety and risk management wish weren’t the case. That said, for what it costs to insure employees these days, employers can no longer afford to take a reactive approach. While some employers have a return-to-work program to reduce days lost due to injury, others take their coverage approach a step further by implementing a stay-at-work program. Such programs can be instrumental in identifying workplace hazards.

It can be a great opportunity for HR professionals to partner with risk management in an effort to focus more on safety and prevention. The following includes a brief introduction on how to get started.

Incorporate information provided by OSHA
Most of us have heard of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). With the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act of 1970, Congress created OSHA to assure safe and healthy working conditions for employees by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

Check out for loads of terrific information including:

  • Workers’ rights
  • Employer responsibilities
  • Regulations
  • Enforcement
  • Training

Keep in mind it is important to educate yourself on your local regulations.

Create a safety program with management
Of course, to truly create a safety culture, the entire organization must be on board. Buy-in and commitment from management is a must. Without their support (both financial and human resources), any program will likely be less successful. Let’s start with a brief breakdown of roles and responsibilities:

  • Management
    • Write and implement policies to create a culture that emphasizes safety as an uncompromised goal
    • Dedicate materials and resources as needed to properly support the program
  • Human Resources
    • Coordinate programs
    • Develop a reporting system
    • Conduct accident research and prevention
    • Train line managers
  • Safety Committees
    • Secure involvement with accident investigations, safety inspections and the evaluation of protective equipment needs
    • Make program and guideline recommendations
    • Elect committee members by their peers

To conclude, I recommend that you remain diligent and do your research. Your industry may very likely have some unique issues that will alter how your program looks and behaves. Make sure to reach out to your partners in risk management and safety, as any program you devise will benefit from their expertise.

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