When you’re the head of your own business, there’s a lot to consider in terms of building and maintaining success. And settling on the right products and services to sell is only part of the equation. Personal responsibility is also an essential concern for any business, whether it’s a new business or well established. The case is even greater if you’re in an industry that requires workers to operate heavy machinery or perform dangerous tasks.
It’s the responsibility of all business owners to make sure their employees have safe work environments. They’re additionally responsible for seeing to the safety of their customers, visitors and others who may be on site. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the importance of workplace safety, and cover a few ways you can make sure your facilities are as safe as possible.
1. Make smarter hiring decisions.
Safe, productive workplaces are the result of careful planning and a firm foundation. That means starting with a team of professionals that place high value on safety. Yes, a big part of this process is making sure the individuals you choose have the proper background and qualifications to perform their job properly. However, candidates’ personal qualities should factor into your hiring process as well.
Carefully screen your job candidates to ensure they have the right skills and enough experience to be successful at what they do — without endangering themselves or others. Make sure the people you hire show strong signs of being responsible, focused, methodical and reliable.
2. Turn up the dial on training.
Naturally, every job is going to require basic training or orientation for new employees. Most industrial facilities are even required by law to administer training in regards to certain procedures. However, there’s no reason why training should stop after orientation. Ideally, it’d be an ongoing process for your company. Your employees should be trained immediately upon the introduction of any new equipment or procedures.
Frequent mandatory safety meetings for all employees should also be implemented in order to review your company’s unique safety regulations. Even seasoned or experienced employees can benefit from refresher courses, and newer employees will gain an abundance of new information. Employees should also be tested at the end of safety meetings to make sure they’ve retained sufficient information.
If you’re worried that your staff will find more frequent safety meetings tedious, get creative and think up some ways to make them more engaging. Games, role-playing scenarios and small-scale contests can all help get the team involved and interested in what’s going on.
3. Start a safety committee with employees from all levels and departments.
Even companies that place high priority on safety can find ways to take it to the next level. The establishment of a safety committee is just one example. Ideally, these committees involve employees and staff members from all areas of the workplace. Management, human resources, factory workers, shipping and receiving, hospitality — everyone should be represented and actively involved. This helps keep everyone focused and engaged.
Your committee’s first task should be to do a thorough once-over when it comes to your company’s facilities. Resources should be inventoried, and areas that could be improved from a safety standpoint should be identified. From there, the group members can put their heads together to come up with an approach to the issue.
4. Don’t leave health and hygiene out of the equation.
In industrial workplaces, safety conversations typically start with proper equipment operation or appropriate safety gear. While these are important procedures, you should never forget areas that are concerns in every workplace. Prioritizing hygiene in your workplace helps stop the spread of germs and illness. Plus when workers are healthier, they’re more alert and productive, which helps them work more safely overall.
It can be easy for employees to forget to wash their hands enough, but posting signage in relevant areas can help — particularly in bathrooms, break rooms, or lunchrooms. Consider making anti-bacterial hand sanitizer available in all areas of the workspace. Last but not least, make sure employees are given an adequate number of paid sick days to help discourage people coming to work when they’re ill or contagious.
5. Make sure you’re adequately prepared for emergencies.
Emergency preparedness goes far beyond equipping your facilities with fire extinguishers and first-aid kits (although those are definitely important). It also means ensuring everyone knows at a moment’s notice what to do in the event of an emergency. In a panic, it’s difficult to remember exactly where the safety equipment is unless the information has been properly engrained in one’s mind.
Signage can help in this realm. Make sure important signs are posted in high-traffic areas when appropriate. Examples include but are not necessarily limited to entrances and exits, break rooms and hallways. Fire exits and fire extinguisher locations should all be clearly and conspicuously labeled. This way, anyone new to your facility can locate them with relative ease.
For your employees and staff, consider implementing frequent emergency drills and rehearsals. As with all aspects of safety protocol, the more this information is repeated and discussed, the more likely it is to be retained. You want your staff’s response to an emergency to be second nature, and practice is the best way to ensure that.
6. Set and stick to a regular maintenance schedule.
When you run an industrial company of any kind, the machinery and equipment you operate every day is a vital part of your livelihood. That said, it’s important to make sure that the machinery is checked and maintained according to a regular schedule. Don’t simply wait until the equipment in question is showing signs of malfunction. By then, it’s likely that something’s been broken for some time. And broken equipment can lead to loss in production, or more consequential, serious injury.
Prevention is the key here. Find out how often the manufacturer of each machine or item recommends performing safety checks and maintenance work. Create a maintenance schedule that includes all relevant items, and stick to it religiously. And it comes time for that equipment upgrade, do so in a timely manner.
Because regular maintenance can require breaks in your regular production and workflow, it’s easy to keep putting off. But small breaks here and there can save you time and money down the road should something break or an accident occur. So instead, try to view these breaks in production as an essential part of running your business efficiently.
7. Take extra measures to make sure workers wear proper safety gear at appropriate times.
When you’re the head of an industrial business, it’s standard procedure to require that workers wear and use proper safety equipment. But that’s not enough. Measures should also be taken to ensure that gear really is worn correctly in every situation. Even responsible workers can become complacent at times and forget to put on safety gear. Others develop bad habits, like repeatedly removing certain items and putting them back on later.
Start by making sure adequate signage is posted in all work zones, and that boundaries for “safety equipment required” areas are clearly marked. You can also help make sure workers wear their safety gear when necessary by making the gear comfortable and usable. Make sure gear and wearable equipment — like fall protection tethers and protective eyewear — is up to date and user-friendly. In addition, ensure the equipment is customized to fit each individual properly. The easier safety equipment is to use, the more consistently it will be used.
8. Launch an incentive program to keep employees engaged.
As with options like the safety committee suggestion above, it helps to keep employees engaged and personally involved when it comes to improving workspace safety and productivity. Additional incentives can help encourage all employees to keep safety at the forefront of their minds.
The most effective safety procedures for your group may vary, but there are endless options in terms of increasing safety. Be creative! Try offering company- or department-wide rewards on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly basis for every period that passes without any safety violations or incidents. Establish good-natured contests between divisions to appeal to people’s competitive sides. Make sure you personally acknowledge and praise workers that make a discernable effort to maintain safety standards as well.
9. Consider adding new training opportunities to the mix.
When it comes to industrial work, certain training procedures are implemented frequently. For instance, all employees are typically trained formally on equipment operation, proper chemical handling and cooperative safety measures. However, there are always new ways to enrich the overall capabilities of your employees.
Has everyone also been trained in proper lifting technique, fire procedure and natural disaster protocol? How about formalized training in regards to useful first-aid procedures like CPR or burn treatment. These types of trainings can enrich an individual’s skillset — and enhance your team as a whole. Make a list of additional techniques or information that could prove useful over the course of your employees’ workday or in case of emergency.
10. Double-check all areas for enough lighting and ventilation.
Ventilation can be huge safety concern in facilities where employers are working with chemicals or machinery that can generate fumes. In these situations, it’s essential to have enough ventilation, especially in storage areas where fumes could easily build up to toxic levels. Making sure humidity levels and temperatures are appropriately regulated is also an absolute must. Consider installing monitors to make it easier to adjust and maintain optimal conditions.
Lighting is another area where many facilities could stand to improve. When lighting isn’t adequate, the door opens for countless additional safety risks, including trip hazards and the inability to see spills in time. Dim, or less than adequate lighting, can generate shadows that hide sharp edges, potential obstacles and other dangerous objects. Make sure all work areas are adequately lit and keep additional portable lighting on hand in case of a power outage or lighting malfunction.
11. Consider if new equipment or safety systems might be a good fit for your facility.
Making sure the equipment you have already is well maintained and in good condition is the first step of equipment-related safety. However, you should always be on the lookout for additional systems that could help increase safety.
For instance, do all of your facilities and warehouses have a spill containment system in place? Spill containment items such as pallet drums and spill containment-centric shelving do more than just make your workplace safer. They can make cleaning spills much easier and a lot less costly.
What about safety cages, swing gates, new gangways designed with safety in mind or pipe racks that increase safety and productivity? Set aside some time to take stock of your facilities and consider what improvements they might need. You might also want to ask a representative from a professional equipment supplier for tips on what might be missing from your set-up. You’ll be glad you did!