How to Get Your Team’s “Skin” In the Safety Game

Published on Tue, 09/17/2013 - 16:57

According to a recently released study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the estimated national price tag of occupational injuries and illnesses is $250 billion year. And OSHA estimates that U.S. employers pay almost $1 billion per week in direct workers' compensation costs alone.

Those are staggering numbers. And the indirect costs of a workers’ comp claim can take an even bigger bite. There’s training for replacement employees, accident investigation, implementing corrective measures, lost productivity, repairing damaged equipment and property, and costs associated with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

Creating a safe work environment is your first line of defense against these devastating workers’ comp costs. And it takes much more than implementing a few initiatives, making some procedural changes, and complying with OSHA regulations. Your employees have to be trained in a safe-work mindset and share in the daily responsibility of creating a safe workplace.

In other words, everyone from the top down has to have skin in the game.

To make safety top of mind in your company culture, you need to train a safe workforce. And to do that, you have to give your workforce what they need to really “own” the safety process:

  • Motivation: Instead of making safety merely a compliance requirement, foster a sense of collective ownership in the business to motivate your employees to be proactive about workplace safety. Try offering incentives for achieving measurable safety goals. And make sure your managers and supervisors demonstrate their commitment to workplace safety and are held accountable for their decisions.
  • Education: If you want your workforce constantly thinking about safety, you have to raise their awareness and keep them involved through continuous education and training. Merely telling them how to be safe doesn’t cut it. You need a formal, written safety program with clear guidelines about daily housekeeping, safe work habits, proper use of tools and equipment, correct use of personal protective gear, emergency preparedness and response, and proper procedures in the event of an accident or injury. Regular safety training and meetings help make safety issues tangible.
  • Engagement: Until you actually put your written safety program into action, it’s all theory. Engage your workforce in aggressively identifying workplace hazards and eliminating them. Have a dedicated safety committee to ensure compliance with and enforcement of your program, conduct regular inspections, and facilitate reporting and formal investigation of incidents. And when workplace accidents occur, work together as a team to find out what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
  • Recognition and accountability: Acknowledge safe behaviors and milestones (e.g., posting the number of days without injury). Make it easy and non-threatening for employees to report problems, and hold those who don’t follow the rules accountable.

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and to prevent workplace accidents and drive down workers’ compensation costs, you need them fully on board with the safety process. It all starts with training them in a safe work mindset. By giving them the tools they need to be fully engaged, you’ll be protecting their safety, your company morale, and your bottom line.

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