Despite this figure declining over the last several decades, workplace injuries, illnesses and even deaths are still commonplace. It is estimated that 14 workers die every day on the job in the US – in the UK, this number is 11, which is still a tragedy.
It is true that some of these fatalities and wounds could not have been avoided and were part of the position. However, it is also true that most of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided with the right health and safety policies at the workplace.
In recent years, all three levels of government have instituted a series of updated occupational safety regulations. Similar to how a fire plan is mandatory at every business, so too is establishing procedures aimed at heightening the safety of every employee on your payroll.
Did you just get a visit from a bureaucrat? Are you interested in coming up with a health and safety handbook for your company? Well, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
1. Policy statement
A healthy and safety mission statement essentially condenses everything you wish to achieve with these new measures. It should be the very first thing in your workplace book, one of the first documents given to new employees and certainly a statement that should be placed everywhere at the office.
The difficult part? Writing such a statement.
Don’t you worry, though, because here is a template that can serve as an example:
‘This statement lists the health and safety policy of Vandelay Industries and how we plan to implement every aspect of our mission. Our primary objective is to guarantee a safe, healthy and happy place to work for every member of our team. It is Vandelay Industries’ intention to keep our staff safe and secure from accidents, illnesses and fatalities. Vandelay Industries will always intend to make our equipment, systems and every other property of our business safe, and we will speak with employees on any and all possible improvements.’
It may not win the Pulitzer Prize, but it is good enough to improve workplace safety.
2. Fire safety
Fire is the biggest and most common danger for any business. It can happen at any time and at any place, so it’s essential that you provide employees with necessary precautions to take to reduce risk and with clear instructions on what to do in case of a fire.
For example, in the event that an employee discovers a fire, they should sound the fire alarm and exit the building as fast and as calmly as possible, and they should then contact the relevant authorities. You should also advise them against trying to extinguish the fire themselves.
Now, should they hear the fire alarm, then they should be advised to leave the building immediately at the nearest fire exit and to obey all exit routes. Your fire safety policy should outline things like shutting doors behind you, refraining from returning to your desk to collect your belongings and avoiding using the elevator. It’s also important to highlight that employees should head straight to the assigned fire assembly point and adhere to all instructions provided by those in charge.
Most importantly, no matter what the circumstances are, employees should be instructed to not reenter the building. This should be a primary policy for any building.
3. First aid
Every business needs two things: a first aid kit and first aid training. Should someone suffer an injury or attain an illness, then someone with an understanding of first aid should be contacted immediately. If the problem is really serious, then the proper authorities need to be summoned immediately.
A proper first aid kit should be located in multiple areas of the commercial property. Moreover, the first aid kit needs to be fully stocked and checked on a regular basis to ensure it is sufficient. A first aid room is a designed room for treating someone who does not feel well or has been wounded.
4. Electrical safety
While employees do not need to be electricians, they should employ common sense by doing a visual check. So, what should they look out for?
- damaged or mangled cables
- damaged plugs (cracked pins)
- a sign of overheating on the plug or socket, like discolouration and burn marks
- a loose part or screw lying next to the wires
- damage to the outer case of the equipment.
Should an employee see any of these signs of an electrical safety hazard, then they need to contact the administrators immediately. Moreover, any faulty equipment must be shut down right away.
5. Hazardous substances
Every jurisdiction has its own series of rules and regulations pertaining to hazardous materials. If your company specialises in these types of materials or you sometimes come into contact with these substances, then you need to ensure that there is a wide variety of controls in place that comply with these regulations. By doing this, you will significantly reduce any risk to staff, visitors and anyone else who might be exposed to these solvents.
6. Off-business hours working
In this day and age, more people are working outside of office hours to get their tasks done or to earn a little bit of extra cash. If you have employees who are burning the midnight oil, then you need to make sure that you have health and safety policies that meet these conditions.
So, what should you do? Here are a few rules to put into place as standard procedure:
- leave name and working location to the after-hours book or security
- request that these employees inform a friend or family member of where they are and when they can expect to return home
- should a fire or emergency occur, these workers need to activate the alarm
- if a worker’s mobility is impaired, then they should not be granted to work alone
- in high-stress environments, only management can agree to let someone work after-hours, and any public health agency should be contacted.
Here is a piece of advice for every commercial establishment, non-profit organisation or educational facility: no accident is too small to report or investigate. Indeed, every incident should be reported to a supervisor, or if someone has been exposed to something serious, then they should be taken to a hospital right away. If you are waiting for a medical expert to arrive at the scene, then it is important to reach for your first aid kit, if necessary.
8. General areas safety
Overall, it is critical to maintain a general areas safety handbook, which is targeted for everyone in the building. So, what are these rules and regulations that every team member and visitor should abide by?
This can include anything from not obstructing walkways, emergency exits and stairs, to prohibiting smoking in the workplace, turning off unused equipment and refraining from overloading shelves. Other rules you can put in place include prohibiting bicycles on the property and not standing on chairs when reaching for something.
9. Workplace inspections
If there are too many accidents and complaints, then it is your job to perform a workplace inspection. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you have a small company in a tiny space. That said, if you own a large company – such as a corporate head office, factory, manufacturing facility or commercial property – then it would be prudent to hire the right industry professionals for a keen eye to detail.
In the meantime, what should you look for upon inspection of health and safety?
- Is signage clean and readable?
- Are the floors clean without any loose debris?
- Is all fire equipment regularly checked and in working order?
- Are washrooms and kitchen areas clean and sanitary?
- Are stairways and aisles clear and unblocked?
- Does the property have adequate lighting?
These questions are great to have on your inspection checklist, should you choose to use one.
Once you and the management team begin to compose a health and safety workbook, you need to begin by studying the related law, requesting information from an officer at city hall and perhaps even hire a consultant to assist you. You should also involve the human resources department in these efforts.
No company ever wants to report an outbreak, a series of accidents or a single death. This is not only terrible for employee morale, but it is bad for business. Sure, the health and safety of your company may not impact the development of a product, improve customer service or boost sales, but it will avoid unnecessary penalties, superfluous investigations and bad publicity. It is imperative to comply with any health and safety at work act or whatever public policy your jurisdiction implemented.
What workplace health and safety policies has your company implemented? What would you recommend to new business owners? Join the conversation down below and let us know.