Worker safety is not a static or permanent condition but a continuous and dynamic challenge. It can be attained but needs to be maintained … and whenever, however possible: be improved upon. So here are some tips to increase the safety of your workers.
These are some tips that, when taken into account on a regular basis, can and will increase the safety of your workers. Some may seem obvious, but then again, taking things for granted is just one of the many ways to invite incidents and accidents.
Adapt when needed (so, pretty much all the time)
“What has changed and what needs to be done because of it?”
Chances are that some conditions on the work floor have changed since the last time you did this. A new worker may be learning the ropes. Maybe some or other schedule has been changed. New equipment or tools may have been introduced. Areas could be temporarily sealed off for repairs or renovations. Systems and protocols may have changed because of upgrades, testing or simply because that’s what they do every season.
Every change in routine demands your attention and often that of some (all?) of your workers. Maybe (extra) training is needed. Perhaps a period or method of adjustment can get things running smoothly and more safely. In most cases a clear and timely communication suffices, in others a structural overhaul is preferable over patchwork adaptation.
“I don’t know what happened. I did this a thousand times before”
As much as changes in the work environment demand your attention, so does routine. Routine breeds complacency, boredom, overconfidence, inattention and oversight. Routine or familiarity with procedures or routes, also gives rise to bending of rules, taking shortcuts, … and all of the above contribute to a higher accident risk, thus less safe place of work.
Frequent reminding workers of caution does have its benefits, but over time becomes background noise with less and less impact. Spot checks can help, as can protocols and technology that keeps your workers alert. Maybe it’s time for a good talking to, maybe a refresh course is needed and there even might be another way to counteract the dangers of routine. But first and foremost: a supervisor must take the time and effort to recognize and tackle complacency to increase the safety of their workers.
To police and protect
“Even if it does seem highly unlikely, let’s try and avoid it nonetheless”.
Safety measures, rules and protocols are there for a reason. Their enforcement precedes business, productivity and economic interests, although worker safety definitely benefits those interests, but that’s another story. A safe work floor demands workers that abide by every safety rule and who trust their colleagues to do the same.
Checking up on safety rules requires a level of control from the company-side. Even the slightest infringement needs to be addressed. Fairly and appropriately but without exception. From the worker side it requires a clear understanding of the risks involved with bending or breaking safety measures. Sometimes workers may need to be a taught or reminded of the reasoning behind some seemingly useless safety protocol. Prompt, clear and objective-oriented communication goes a long way.
You can always do better
“If we could just … then we might …”
Since worker and workplace safety is an ever changing continuous challenge, there is always room for improvement. By investigating and analyzing incidents and accidents. Working out new ways to prevent repeats to increase the safety of your workers. Mapping out dangers and hotspots, identifying vulnerabilities … And again: this needs to be a regularly repeated exercise, since next month things will have changed.
Improving worker safety can be reactive. A response that rises from specific safety needs in a changing working environment. For instance: better lighting, air treatment or the widening of aisles to adapt to the new somewhat larger model forklift. The improvement can also originate from new methods and/or technological advancements in workplace safety. For instance: by providing all drivers of said forklifts as well as all the workers on foot that share their space, with proximity sensors.
Do you want to discuss this further? Don’t hesitate to contact us! We can look at how to help you increase the safety at your workplace.