4 Tried-and-True Steps to Enhance Employee Safety

How to Effectively Manage COVID and Other Safety Challenges in the Workplace

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By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions

Are you challenged with knowing the best ways to keep your employees safe? Are you scratching your head, trying to figure out where to start?

Then check out what I learned during an interview with Andrew Brought, an attorney with Spencer Fane in Kansas City, Missouri. He has dedicated his career to understanding Environmental, Health and Safety regulations in the US, and counsels manufacturers, industrial clients, and businesses with complex environmental and workplace safety matters.

I compiled the highlights of the interview that’s centered around helping to ensure general workplace safety. Even if you live outside of the US, he has valuable information to share on improving the safety in your organization!

For the full-length interview, click here.

Let’s dive in!

1. Understand Your Obligations

This aspect involves understanding the rules you need to be following. Different industries have different standards.

If your organization is in the US, the OSHA website* has industry-specific standards and resources you can check out. There’s also a lot of great information to help with COVID-19 on OSHA’s website, including how to build a compliance program that satisfies the agency’s expectations.

If you’re outside the US, refer to your local and national guidance and standards to see what they are for your industry.

Takeaway: The most important thing at the outset is to understand the requirements.

2. Determine the Risks

Start at a high level to determine what the different elements are. Then dive down into the specific analysis of tasks at the individual job and task level. You’ll want to ask yourself:

  • In what ways will the employee be exposed to risks?
  • How will they be exposed to these risks?
  • What are you going to do to mitigate that?

You want to look at the workplace as a whole and an individual level. Once you’ve done this, you may not necessarily need to repeat your analysis. For instance, in the manufacturing sector, tasks in many areas are repeatable, like an assembly line on a manufacturing floor with employees doing the same thing day-in and day-out, 24-hours a day. You know what the risks are and how to mitigate them.

Takeaway: If it’s a new, required process with unknown risks involved, a job hazard analysis or task hazard analysis is an excellent thing to do.

3. Develop Policies and Procedures

This aspect combines working from the engineering standpoint, the process standpoint, and the HR standpoint—bringing them together to develop a set of operational procedures and controls that mitigate the risks.

It’s so important that employees understand these procedures and controls and are easily implementable. You don’t want to give someone a 500-page operating procedure and say, “Here you go…good luck with it”. It may be outstanding from an engineering and safety standpoint, but they won’t follow it.

Takeaway: If it’s not easily digestible, you have to organize it so that employees can easily understand it.

4. Implement Workplace Controls

Employees should understand the risks, be initially trained on them, and then be tested on their understanding.  Then double-check with them over time to ensure they still understand these risks. That’s where “refresher training” comes in. A continual effort to mitigate risks is all-important.

Here’s an example: an employee may have received training three years before, and now if they are in a more dangerous role, it’s crucial to maintain this oversight and follow-up regularly. Plan regular refresher training and audit their work environment to ensure they are doing what they need to be doing.

Takeaway: Have proper workplace controls in place that involve initial training/testing on risks. It’s imperative to ensure employees understand these controls over time through refresher training.

Two Crucial Things  

In closing, there are two vital things an employer should emphasize to ensure employee safety:

  1. Create a culture that is dedicated to workplace safety
  2. Ensure you have line items around safety or people who have ownership/accountability of that issue

If you don’t have an organization committed to health and safety, that’s a problem. And if you don’t have accountability and individuals who are doing this, that’s also a problem.

Bottom line: you need to have top-level management supporting workplace safety; otherwise, employees won’t follow the guidelines, compromising workplace safety. And that could very well hurt an organization in the end.

# # #

Speaking of employee safety, Michael Cantu of Accelerate and I are excited about a new app, Ratify AI, meeting an essential need in the market–how to manage COVID vaccine protocols in the workplace holistically.

Michael’s team created the app in consultation with medical experts and lawyers who know this topic. It does away with manual daily health checks and spreadsheet tracking, to name just a few benefits.

If you’d like to learn more about this app, and at the same time, gauge where your organization’s at, safety-wise, download our FREE COVID Management Checklist. Not only will the results help you gauge the fitness of your current protocols, they will also point out areas where you can improve.

*For more information on workplace safety, you can also check out the EPA and CDC websites.

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