Employee Safety 101: 5 Tips for Creating A Safe Work Environment
Employee Safety 101: 5 Tips for Creating A Safe Work Environment

There are some basics that people neglect all the time.

Work environments run the gamut - from offices and daycare centers to construction sites, hair salons and more, they each have their own concerns and safety hazards. While every work environment is unique, there are a few common measures that can be taken to boost employee safety.

1851 Franchise spoke with three leaders in the work safety space, and they shared their tips for workplace safety.

Don’t make assumptions

Many employees “they think when they’re in the office they are in an inherently safe place to begin with,” managing director of Performance Solutions By Milliken Phil McIntyre said.

While it’s true that an office is less hazardous than, for example, the production floor of a manufacturing facility, offices are still not hazard-free, J.J. Keller and Associates senior editor on workplace safety Travis Rhoden told 1851 Franchise.

“And, the things we might try at home that seem like they might be OK in the office can lead to injury,” Rhoden said. Common office mistakes, he added, include a poor desk and computer setup, not wearing the proper footwear and not knowing the emergency action plan.

“All workers need to know what to do in case of various types of emergency,” Rhoden said.

Remember the basics

Monitoring the use of power strips and not overloading them by plugging in too many devices are just two things office workers should be cognizant of, according to Safety Resources director of education and training Chris Hall.

Oh, and try not to stand on swivel chairs if you’re trying to reach something.

“People will stand on those quite frequently,” Hall said.

Other potentials for disaster include trying to fix office equipment without any knowledge - “stick your hand in the wrong place,” Hall said - and not doing maintenance during inclement weather, thereby allowing snow and ice buildup in spots where people could easily slip and fall, he said.  

Improperly using stepladders is another problem, “but that’s a little bit less frequent in office environments because they typically don’t have a lot of ladders around, which is why they go to the chair or stand on a table or something to that effect,” Hall said.

Safety, Rhoden noted, needs to be a core value.

“It’s not necessarily the number one priority, but it has to be an equal priority along with production and quality,” Rhoden said.

Training, training, training

Hall noted that a lack of employee training is a major issue. In restaurants, for example, he noted that employees often have to use chemicals and learn how to manage equipment, such as a slicer.

An industrial dishwasher, he noted, has a lot of hazards associated with it.

“They basically say ‘Go back there and wash the dishes’ and you go back there and nobody shows you anything, you just have to figure it out on your own,” Hall said. “That’s pretty common within those types of franchising industries because, I think, a lot of emphasis is put on ‘Let’s get this thing up and running’ and a lot of people look at certain things as ‘Oh, people should have enough common sense to figure this out’ when the reality is that a lot of times people don’t have the amount of common sense needed to figure it out. They try to figure it out on their own and they get hurt doing it.”

Delegate responsibilities

McIntyre noted that Performance Solutions by Milliken are strong advocates of what he refers to as the infrastructure, where a core group of associates are part of a steering committee on safety and then supporting that steering committee are individual subcommittees, regardless of industry.

“The key is selecting the right type of subcommittees,” McIntyre said. “The subcommittees should be established around where the potential hazards occur.”

Subcommittees, McIntyre said, would then understand how to identify hazards and put countermeasures in place to prevent those hazards from causing potential injuries.

Involve both management and employees

Safety should not be the concern of just one group of people.

“Management has to have an open door policy when it comes to safety and they also have to set the tone,” Hall said, adding that both managers and employees need to follow the same safety rules. Managers, he said, must be able to walk the walk.

“You cannot promote safety within your work environment if the upper management’s not willing to do the same things to meet safety requirements that the employees are required to do,” Hall said.

Managers should also be open to the suggestions of employees, Hall said.

“The best way to put new safety policies in place and to get what we call buy-in from the employee level is to make them feel like they’re part of that discussion,” Hall said. “If you just bring policies out and say ‘You have to do this,’ it’s hit and miss on who’s going to do what, but if they’re part of that discussion, part of that communication, they tend to follow that rule more willingly or more voluntarily than you having to force it upon them.”

Rhoden echoed this sentiment.

“Both have to work together – that means managers have to be willing to listen and respond to safety issues that workers bring up,” Rhoden said, adding that workers also need to bring up those issues.

Ultimately, workplace safety is not the work of just one person, or even of a group of managers.

“It’s very important that the managers allow the employees to feel ownership and accountability for safety and it’s not something that rests solely with management,” McIntyre said. “Organizations that do the best job in the world are the ones who have a combined effort and the employees feel as if they have a voice and accountability for safety.