Between job site hazards, budgetary pressures and ever-changing OSHA regulations, a safety manager’s job is anything but easy. Whether you’re a one-employee team or the head of a major safety initiative, there are always more plates to spin, more people to please and more fires to put out.
That said, there are certainly easier and harder ways to do the job. A handful of best practices and helpful tools can make most safety-related tasks more manageable. To see which of these measures may benefit you, consider the following seven things you don’t want to do — practices that could be making environmental health and safety (EHS) at your company far more difficult than it needs to be.
1. Not Sweating the Small Stuff
When we think about EHS, we typically think about accidents and traumatic injuries. However, a huge number of work-related health problems stem from longer-term musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that MSD accounts for a third of all injury and illness cases, and that nearly 40 percent of those cases arise from back problems.
Fortunately, many of these disorders can be prevented or mitigated with good ergonomics. Day-to-day aches and pains quickly add up to chronic neck and low back problems, but they can be alleviated with good lifting practices, supportive equipment and ample rest. Some of these measures may seem simplistic, but the time and money spent upfront on ergonomics will pay tremendous dividends in employee health and reduced injury costs.
2. Siloing Your Safety Team
Your team may have the final say on new policies and procedures, but safety is a company-wide concern. The best-thought-out policies won’t take effect if managers and workers don’t implement them, and implementation requires buy-in. That buy-in requires feedback and participation from stakeholders throughout your organization.
3. A Focus on Procedure Over Culture
Somewhat counterintuitively, too great a focus on policies and procedures can come back to bite you. You might be able to tie specific policies to quantitative improvements, but at the end of the day, the overall goal is to improve working conditions, reduce incident rates and cut incident-related costs.
To that end, your corporate culture is every bit as important as the nitty-gritty details of your plan. Do workers feel that safety personnel and executives have their best interests at heart? Do managers feel empowered to protect their teams? Can everyone rest assured there won’t be any negative repercussions to pointing out unsafe practices? Once you can answer yes to these questions, compliance becomes far less of a problem.
4. Prioritizing the End Result
We all want to achieve the coveted zero percent incident rate, but focusing solely on an end goal has its downsides. Incident rates, healthcare costs and other quantitative outcomes are influenced by a dizzying number of factors, many of which you can’t control.
Ultimately, a more productive (and probably less stressful) way to achieve your company’s safety goals is to focus on behaviors. There are probably a number of strategies you’ve found to be effective in improving safety, from daily toolbox talks to walkthroughs to detailed lockout tagout logs. Keep tabs on these actionables, make sure they improve in a measurable way, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can reach your ultimate goal.
5. Making it Tough to Find Information
To workers focused on production, it can be tough to keep track of existing policies and procedures - much less new ones! A surefire way to contribute to the confusion is to make it difficult to locate safety-related information. From company manuals to detailed lockout tagout procedures, everything an employee might need to know should be available in a central repository. Likewise, it shouldn’t be hard to find MSDS and other basic references.
6. A Lack of Positive Reinforcement
Discipline for safety violations is all but essential in a company that operates with hazardous materials, heavy equipment and dangerous job sites. However, positive enforcement is just as important in encouraging compliance and fostering a safety-minded culture. If your employees are written up for breaking rules but never commended for following them, it’s no wonder you’re having a hard time encouraging better behaviors. People respond amazingly well to positive feedback, and if you take the time to reward safe behaviors, you might be surprised at how much easier your job becomes.
7. Manually Managing Safety Data and Reports
Between incident reports, internal audits and the ever-growing list of OSHA-mandated documentation, safety personnel contend with a dizzying amount of paperwork. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to try to manage all of these documents manually - particularly in our digital day and age!
Safety software can remove a tremendous burden from you and your team, allowing you to dedicate more time to meet your workers’ needs. To learn how you can manage investigations, training, JSAs, OSHA audits and more - all with a single software package - contact BasicSafe today for a free demonstration.