Safety is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace. From the C-suite to equipment operators to the office staff, each and every member of your team should have the tools and knowledge to keep themselves and their coworkers safe at work.

Promoting safety in the workplace helps protect your biggest asset -- your people. When their safety is a priority, employees feel valued and respected. They're more likely to stay with your company longer, and less likely to miss work due to injury or illness.  At the same time, you avoid expensive fines and potential shutdowns that could be caused by major safety issues.

The National Safety Council recognizes June as National Safety Month. What better time to introduce cultural changes, processes and procedures, metrics tracking, and training to improve safety?

Create a Safety-Focused Culture

When safety is not a priority, a small issue can quickly become a major safety threat. Rather than delaying production for a few minutes to get the right safety equipment in place, you may lose valuable employees to illness or injury. You may even need to shut down the plant for days or weeks.

If your safety fails to meet OSHA standards, the administration may charge a fee up to $12,934 per violation of their regulations.

Avoiding these obstacles takes a safety-focused culture. Everyone in your organization needs to believe that safety is a priority. You need to make it clear to employees that staying safe is part of their job. It's easy to get so caught up in production goals and delivery deadlines that safety becomes a secondary priority, or falls of the list entirely.

To build a safety-focused culture, leadership at every level must take a safety-first approach to production. It is up to managers and other leadership to model a safe workplace and insist on safety procedures being followed, even when doing so slows down production in the short-term.You must encourage employees to report safety violations and ask them for suggestions on how to make the workplace safer. 

Don't let them believe that you are talking the talk but not walking the walk. If safety is an afterthought, or if leadership is more focused on production than safety, employees may feel like they can't take the time to follow safety procedures or think they will be disciplined for pointing out areas for improvement.

Develop Realistic Processes and Procedures for Safety

OSHA requires written safety plans for more than 24 activities and for handling of certain chemicals. A safety plan helps everyone in the organization understand their role in maintaining safety and outlines clear strategies for keeping workers safe.

Document the safety plan and make sure that everyone has a copy. This shouldn't be something that lives only in the HR office. It should be a living document accessible by every member of the team. Update it regularly to address any special concerns or changes in the work environment.

When updating safety protocols, pay special attention to common workplace safety hazards. Clutter, inappropriately used extension cords, and improper lockout or tagout procedures are hot areas for safety incidents. Safety and Health Magazine published a list of the most common workplace safety hazards, which can help you identify and address potential issues. 

You can create the most comprehensive safety plan in the world, but if it's too complex for employees and managers to follow, they probably won't. Take care to create safe processes and detailed safety procedures that fit within the scope of employees daily activities. Update employee goals to make safety one of their performance metrics.

The OSHA employer responsibilities page is a good place to start if you want to know whether your plan meets safety standards. Keep in mind that while most organizations are subject to OSHA law and regulations or OSHA-approved state plans, your specific workplace may present special hazards or concerns that should be addressed accordingly. A one-size-fits all approach will not get you the best results.

Track Safety Metrics

The manufacturing industry lost 318 workers to fatal work injuries in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, the incidence rate for workplace injuries and illnesses in manufacturing was 3.6. That means 3.6 injuries or illnesses occured for every 100 full-time equivalent workers. While recordable cases of workplace injury or illness have fallen steadily since 2003, there is still work to be done.

To see how far your business has come and what you still need to work on, you should track safety metrics within your organization just as the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks national metrics.

Develop a safety scorecard for your organization. How is each worksite or department performing?

Keep track of recordable incidents to find your incident rate. Take a look at the number of accidents per 10,00 hours. How many work days were lost due to work-related injury or illness?

Because your safety program is only as good as your information, you should set guidelines for how and how quickly incidents should be reported.

Don't be afraid to share your scorecard results with each department. Every employee should be able to see that you are working on safety, and that it is a top priority.

Train Every Employee at Every Level

OSHA defines education and training as one of the five basic elements of an effective health and safety management program. With good reason. Employee training is one of your most valuable tools for enhancing workplace safety.

This training should be provided to all new employees - and refresher courses should also be given to tenured employees on a regular basis.

Penn Foster's Industrial Safety Training teaches employees core concepts related to safety in the industrial workplace. In this online, self-paced course, employees learn about the most common workplace hazards including chemicals, fire, and electricity. They learn to stay safe while optimizing productivity. 

Improve your safety metrics by giving every employee a working knowledge of safety protocols. Learn more about our industrial safety training here:

Learn More