What makes a health and safety system truly successful? Good question.
Knowing the rules and following them is one piece of the puzzle: think recordkeeping, incident tracking, regulatory compliance. Just as important, though, is avoiding major safety mistakes. Although this sounds obvious, some of the biggest workplace safety mistakes can be difficult to recognize and prevent.
When thinking about safety mistakes, the things that come to mind are usually dangerous accidents or exposure to hazards. In short, the following five problem areas may not be top of mind right now, but continue reading and they sure will be.
Here is why they should be, and what you can do to prevent them.
It makes sense that employers would want to onboard new employees as efficiently as possible. From a financial standpoint, hiring and training is a costly process. The more efficient the training, the sooner the employee can become a productive contributor to the company. While expedited training might seem appealing, taking the time to train and onboard properly can have numerous health and safety benefits.
In matters of workplace health and safety, detailed and thorough training can set a strong standard and example from an employees’ very first day on the job. Not only does it help arm employees with the knowhow to prevent workplace safety mistakes, but it also communicates that safety is a priority.
Although employees and employers commonly agree that training is important, most people don’t enjoy sitting through lengthy training sessions, whether in a classroom or in front of a computer. All of this can harm the quantity and quality of information that employees absorb. A strong health and safety system maximizes employee time and attention to deliver training that is timely, hands-on, and relevant. EHS management software can help deliver more accessible and convenient training, allowing employees to complete it at their own pace or within a certain timeframe. It also tracks employee progress and stores training documents for easy retrieval.
A near-miss incident can feel like a relief, and it is easy to move on and forget what happened once the threat has passed. However, neglecting to follow up on a near-miss is a major risk factor, because it increases the chances that the issue will come up again. How do you ensure that a near-miss doesn’t snowball into a serious incident?
Near-miss reporting requires clear and seamless communication throughout the organization. When employees and management are not sure whether or how to report near-misses, it affects not just that single case, but the overall quality of incident reporting data. In a near-miss scenario, it might be tempting to sigh with relief and move on, thankful that the worst outcome was avoided. However, follow-through should never stop here.
Over time, proper near-miss reporting results in a trove of accurate and potentially life-saving data. To achieve this level of reporting, it’s important to communicate a clear, straightforward policy on the reporting process. One of the first and simplest steps is to define exactly what is meant by a near-miss. For example, The National Safety Council defines a near miss as “an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so”. The definition can be tailored to make it relevant to the organization and industry, and it should be made known to all personnel involved in safety reporting.
Most importantly, regular discussion of near-misses normalizes reporting and creates a clear line of communication between workers and management. For example, asking about near-misses in daily meetings or through reporting dashboards can turn attention to recurring issues that need to be addressed. The organization should establish a clear chain of command and protocol for addressing near-misses, including reporting, analysis, prioritization, and finding solutions.
Equipment maintenance is extremely important, but doesn’t it always seem to come up at the most inconvenient time? If maintenance and upkeep are done on the spur of the moment, it’s easy to think of all of the reasons why the equipment is needed and cannot be turned off, even briefly. Putting it off longer or adding “equipment maintenance” to a mental to-do list might make us feel better in the moment. Unfortunately, the delay only increases the chances of a completely preventable cause of equipment failure and poses a major safety hazard to employees.
The best answer to this vicious cycle of scheduling and rescheduling is regularly scheduled maintenance checks. This can be simplified by building this into your workplace health and safety software, like Donesafe. This can help address one of the biggest reasons for putting off maintenance, which is a loss of productivity. Scheduling maintenance regularly can help prepare and account for a temporary dip in productivity. The alternative, doing maintenance only when the equipment malfunctions, is a surefire way to lose productivity. Planning maintenance ahead of time—and abiding by the plan—helps accommodate any downtime resulting from the inspection. Regular maintenance is also crucial for preventing safety incidents resulting from faulty equipment.
Improvisation and creative thinking are valuable skills in any workplace. In the interest of time and efficiency, a worker might choose to improvise or use the available tools to complete a task, especially if the task is urgent. Unfortunately, taking shortcuts to get the job done can result in entirely preventable workplace safety mistakes. Substituting an imperfect tool for the correct tool might get the job done, but it’s also likely to pose a higher risk of injury. Likewise, completing a task “on the fly” might mean that proper safety equipment, such as hard hats or reflective clothing, is inaccessible.
Avoiding this issue is a matter of preparation as well as communication. Employees should have the right tools to do their job, and they should also be instructed on the proper handling of these tools. The issue also needs to be addressed through communication that centers teamwork. Why? It’s as simple as the fact that a fall from an improperly placed ladder will injure both the person on the ladder as well as those beneath it. Misusing equipment and failing to protect oneself pose risks not just to the individual, but anyone working alongside them. Team-oriented communication promotes a shared responsibility towards oneself and others. Workers who engage in risky behavior may change their behavior if they realize that their actions endanger others as well as themselves.
A robust health and safety system is made up of so many moving parts: incident reporting, standards, hazard management, regulatory compliance, training, just to name a few things. Many of these areas are subject to continuous updates and changes and require ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Luckily, these tasks can be managed in one place by investing in comprehensive health and safety management software. By choosing to bring the entire health and safety system under a single umbrella also sends a clear message that “health and safety” is more than just a slogan, but rather an organizational priority.
“Health and Safety” is more than just a slogan, but rather an organizational priority
How can health and safety software help prevent these and other common safety mistakes? First, it simplifies training and makes it more accessible and convenient for employees to complete. It provides a database for tracking and following up on near-misses, and reminders to complete regular equipment maintenance and inspection. Health and safety software, like Donesafe, automates the busy workload of health and safety management, allowing more time for important hands-on safety practice and face-to-face interactions.