4 Steps to Set Up a Work Safety Program
This is part 2 in our 4 part series on implementing a workplace safety program. Special thanks to Safety Guys Workplace Safety Trainers for their input.
We’ve established the importance of having a safety plan, so let’s get to how to set one up. Obviously, the specifics of your industry will dictate what that’s going to look like. For example, the risk related to hairdressing will be different than from landscaping. And carpet cleaners will have chemical hazards to look out for whereas window cleaners must comply with regulations for working safely at height.
It’s your responsibility as an employer to take the proper precautions to ensure your employees work in a safe environment, have the proper equipment, are trained in proper operating procedures, and prepared in the event of an emergency.
While that all sounds pretty daunting, at the heart of it is just applying some common sense.
“Safety gets a bad rap. It’s looked at as a hassle; something you have to do,” says Brenda Van Belle of Safety Guys Workplace Safety Trainers, based in Ottawa, Canada. The company helps companies big and small to set up safety plans and train workers to comply with occupational health and safety regulations.
“But it’s been shown to have big benefits. Employees feel valued and involved and it improves morale,” she adds.
Not to mention, as noted in our article outlining the importance of a safety program, it will save your company money in avoiding lost productivity, hefty fines, potential lawsuits and higher insurance costs that are all possibilities in the aftermath of a workplace accident.
Van Belle says it starts with a meeting with all parties: owner, supervisors, and employees. The purpose: get everyone thinking about safety and identifying risks.
Here are 4 specific areas to look at when designing a workplace safety program:
Safety gets a bad rap. It’s looked at as a hassle; something you have to do. But it’s been shown to have big benefits. Employees feel valued and involved and it improves morale.
Do you have the necessary manuals for all the tools your workers use? You will have to do an assessment of the risks involved with each piece of equipment. This, of course, will again be industry specific.
For example, a landscaping company will have backpack blowers, which can produce noise in excess of 172 decibels. In this case, do your workers have the necessary ear protection? That will be part of your PPE inventory—remember that’s personal protective equipment you must provide. Thinking about your own industry and business, do your employees have the necessary clothing, eye protection, gloves or other equipment?
Are you workers trained in the use and maintenance of the equipment? If they need special licences to operate special equipment are they certified? Along with having a copy of the operation and maintenance manuals readily available, you should have a logbook that workers should sign confirming that they’ve been trained.
Should there be an accident and an investigation, you can at least show that you did your part and provided proper training. And that may mean retraining and recertification is required regularly.
Some training may be government mandated which is the case with chemical safety standards. In Canada, workers need to take Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) to make sure they know the labels and symbols on the Safety Data Sheet. In the U.S., it’s the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard (OSHA HazCom). Employees should know what symbols denote hazardous materials and precautions to take when handling and disposing of toxic substances.
3. Emergency safety plan and first aid
Do your employees have access to emergency materials needed in the event of an accident. Is there an emergency eye wash station in the area where chemicals are being used? Are they trained in lifesaving procedures, such as CPR?
You should have at least one person trained per employee team or unit. Things like first aid kits and fire extinguishers should be readily available along with a fire plan or other standard operating procedures in case of an emergency.
While you’re at it, you should post your health and safety standards along with other corporate policies. And sign it as a show of your company’s commitment to safety.
There's nothing scary about health and safety precautions. Just check the list before the job. Simple.
4. Field level risk assessments
This is an invaluable tool for identifying, eliminating or minimizing potential hazards at job site on the day the work is being done. Field level risk assessments are forms with text boxes and checklists that ask people to identify hazards in their surroundings, and indicate how they are avoiding or protecting themselves from the hazards. Text boxes are key, as you want your employees to actively identify hazards and risks rather than passively tick off a checklist.
All it takes is time and a bit of imagination and you can easily design a field level risk assessment form. You just have to think of what incidents might be avoided if your workers simply stop and think before they start their task.
Are there weather related factors–heat or cold—or other environmental concerns on a given day? Do you workers have access to water and restrooms? Did a site survey note any hazards, such as, steep grades or a drop off? Are there traffic precautions that need to be taken? Are there any overhead hazards, such as power lines or tree branches.
Before work begins for the day, a supervisor should walk the site and look up, down, and all around. You must take every conceivable precaution to protect the health and safety of your workers.
“There are small things that you assume everybody knows,” says Van Belle. “But don’t. Common sense is not something you can teach.”
You may end up with a lawsuit on your hands if you assume a worker knows how to use a piece of equipment, or fail to take the necessary precautions because you assume they are common knowledge. Employers shouldn’t see safety plans and risk assessments as a nuisance or needless expense. Because a huge financial loss is likely if an accident does happen. Especially, when field level risk assessments can be so easy to set up with a simple template.
Here are some best practices, again, care of Van Belle from Safety Guys. Your risk assessment should record the name and date, location and instruct your employees to complete the following (using text boxes where possible):
- List the equipment needed, condition and any special training required. Get proof of training from employees.
- Vehicle inspections if required.
- Visual inspection of site noting hazards and taking pictures of areas of concern where possible.
- Identify the job steps.
- Identify the hazards associated with each step.
- Assess the level of risk for each hazard.
- Discuss precautions with employees and take questions.
- Have employees sign copy of what was said in safety talk.
- Make completed form available to crew.
Van Belle says field level risk assessments have been made simple with Jobber’s job forms feature which can be used to set up custom templates. Once a form or checklist has been set up, it can be used over and over again for whatever the job and becomes attached to the customer’s file. Jobber also allows for attachments like photos and special instructions when a specific risk is identified, because a picture’s worth a thousand words.
When each task on the field level risk assessment is performed, Jobber’s job forms can be formatted to have checkboxes or text fields for notes or initials.
“There’s nothing scary about health and safety precautions. Just check the list before the job. Simple,” says Van Belle.
This is part 2 in our 4 part series on implementing a workplace safety program: