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What makes an effective corporate safety program?

Like a ship without a rudder, a company without a well-designed and functioning safety program will not be able to steer clear of workplace hazards. These can include risks related to a company’s building, equipment, vehicles and more. A good safety program can save your organization money and prevent accidents, while also showing your employees you care about their well-being.

Write it down

It sounds simple, but one of the most important components of an effective safety program is to have it written down. A written safety program will provide a blueprint for safety success. It makes your program legitimate, leaves less room for interpretation and allows employees to reference it when needed. A written safety program is designed to direct the safety activities for the company, clearly laying out your organization’s safety guidelines and policies.

For a safety program to be effective, employees need to know about it. Having a written program makes it easier for employees to be aware of and follow the guidelines, and should help employees understand their responsibility for following the program. Also, depending on where your company is located, it may be a legal requirement to have a written safety program. For example, Minnesota requires employers to have A Workplace Accident and Injury Reduction (AWAIR) program. Check with your local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office, as laws regarding safety programs can differ by state.

Write a safety policy statement, too

Similarly, it’s important to have a written safety policy statement. This statement expresses the desire of top management and the company overall to provide a safe working environment for their employees and asks for all employees to support the safety program. This statement should be written and signed by top management, signaling to employees that safety is valued at all levels of the company. Most importantly, it should be posted in an area where it will be seen by all employees and serve as a reminder of your organization’s commitment to safety.

Enforce the rules

No safety program would be complete without rules and a means to enforce those rules. These aren’t meant to micromanage employees but to provide clear expectations for safety in the workplace. The rules you create and enforce should be specific to your company and industry. For example, safety rules will differ from a machine shop to a food processing factory.

Start by giving the rules to all new hires and annually reviewing the program with all employees. You can incorporate safety program training alongside yearly cybersecurity and harassment trainings. Enforcement should be taken seriously and keeping employees safe should be your priority. If an employee breaks a safety rule, enforcement should start with a verbal warning and proceed up to termination for the most serious violations.

Inform and motivate employees

Safety training is ongoing. A good safety program will inform, train and motivate employees beyond new hire orientation. Employees should be informed about safety issues as they arise. Communicating new issues as soon as possible will ensure that employees are aware of risks and can do their jobs safely.

Holding regular safety meetings is a common practice to keep employees informed and motivated about safety. How often you hold safety meetings depends on your business, but quarterly safety meetings are typical. Safety meetings are an ideal time to address employees’ concerns about workplace safety, as well as review recent accidents, causes and corrective measures going forward. Keep meeting minutes for employees to review later.

We’ve discussed using verbal warnings for safety violations, but an effective program will also focus on motivating employees and recognizing good behaviors. Supervisors should be directed to motivate their employees through positive reinforcement when safety rules are properly followed.

Take ownership of the program

No safety program can be successful without management’s support. Implementation and enforcement of the program needs to start at the top. Leading by example will go a long way in getting buy-in and participation from employees.

Management is responsible for supporting all elements of the safety program, as well as providing funding for all necessary activities and materials. This support and ownership of the program will help ensure its continued success.

Appoint a safety coordinator

While management needs to ensure that the safety program has support from the top, they should also appoint a safety coordinator. Having a single point of contact to oversee the program helps provide accountability and ensures that the program doesn’t fall through the cracks.

The safety coordinator should be chosen for their ability and willingness to take on this important role. It’s also critical that this employee is supported by top management and given the authority to be effective in implementing all elements of the safety program. The safety coordinator is not a safety police officer, however. They should direct supervisors in carrying out activities of the safety program and promote the benefits of being safe to employees.

Create a safety committee

Transparency is key when trying to motivate employees to follow your safety program. That’s why it’s a good idea to create a safety committee. A safety committee creates transparency in your organization’s processes but also takes it a step further by allowing employee participation. Your safety committee should be made up of at least 50% non-management employees. This allows employees to have a voice in the safety program, instead of something that feels like employees versus management.

The main task of your safety committee should be to meet regularly and especially when a safety issue needs to be addressed. The safety coordinator should decide how frequently the committee meets, set up meetings and maintain agendas. These meetings are a time to review safety issues and brainstorm ways to address them.

Investigate and inspect thoroughly

Unfortunately, accidents do happen, but having thorough accident investigation and inspection procedures in place are among the most important keys to success for a safety program. A company cannot expect to prevent future issues if they don’t investigate accidents and find out what led to them. An accident is any event that has caused injury or damage or has the potential for injury or damage. It’s important to err on the side of caution and investigate all accidents. A minor accident that didn’t cause injury should still be investigated as it could lead to a major injury in the future. Data collected from your investigations can highlight accident trends, and this information can be used for prevention.

While investigating incidents is key, preventing them is your best option. This is where inspections come in. A company’s building, equipment and fleet should be inspected on a regular basis to find and eliminate hazards. A checklist specific to the company’s operations should be developed and used for these inspections. Concerns should be noted, and a timeline for completing improvements should be established and followed up on by the safety coordinator.

Where to start

An effective safety program can make a huge difference in your organization. It can make your workplace safer, save money and improve morale. If you’re looking to get a safety program up and running, connecting with insurance advisors is a good place to start. They can help you identify loss prevention areas, find resources to assist you, and identify ways to save on your insurance policies. Insurance deals with risk every day, making insurance advisors extremely knowledgeable in avoiding risks. They can provide best practices and advise you on an insurance policy that best fits your organization’s safety program.

Image > Dick Koeckeritz

About Dick Koeckeritz

With over 40 years of experience, Dick Koeckeritz helps customers manage the cost of insurance through proven safety management practices. He provides comprehensive evaluations of safety and loss prevention programs and offers recommendations on training and development solutions to improve efficiency. Dick has strong knowledge of OSHA standards, including the ability to provide mock OSHA inspections and evaluations. He can also aid in disputing citations. Dick specializes in industrial hygiene, including the development of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) programs, noise testing and hearing conservation program development, and environme...

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