How To Ensure Workplace Safety for On-Site Workers
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), every year, 2.3 million workers around the world fall victim to workplace-related accidents and diseases. This number accounts for 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million work-related diseases, resulting in 6,000 fatalities every single day.
These staggering statistics show the prevalence of poor working conditions. At the same time, they are a testament to the importance of championing workplace safety. That is most crucial for industries that require on-site work, such as the construction and manufacturing industries.
Businesses’ end goal of profit creation won’t be possible without employees who put in the work. As such, it only follows that workers get protected at all costs from workplace risks that could put their well-being in danger.
Why is on-site safety important?
According to Liberty Mutual Insurance, disabling workplace injuries cost businesses more than $58 billion annually. It’s in your best interest to enforce workplace safety policies and procedures that are well-researched and just as well-executed to protect your employees and your business.
The first order of business is to pinpoint the usual culprits of occupational accidents and work-related hazards. Doing so will guide you on which issues to tackle with the utmost priority.
Below, you’ll see some of the most common workplace injuries and their corresponding costs and causes.
|Annual Cost||Main Causes|
|Falls||$16.84 billion||wet floors, wobbly ladders|
|Handling objects||$13.30 billion||heavy objects|
|Being hit by objects||$5.61 billion||falling objects|
|Vehicle crashes||$3.16 billion||distracted drivers|
|Slip or trip||$2.52 billion||slippery or uneven walkways|
|Equipment-related injuries||$2.01 billion||rotating machine parts|
Source: Liberty Mutual Insurance
These incidents are most prevalent in industries that require heavy manual labor, such as construction and manufacturing. For the former, falls take the top spot, accounting for 28.8% of cases. As for the latter, handling objects, at 22.7%, make up the largest chunk of the injury pie.
With the global pandemic, another risk has factored into the equation. Specifically, the COVID-19 impact on the construction industry cannot be overstated, causing prolonged lockdowns of projects.
And now that most health restrictions have been lifted, with aggressive inoculation efforts resulting in a declining number of cases, there’s still an urgent need for measures to ensure on-site workers’ safety.
That’s because while herd immunity is slowly turning in reality, the virus that has hounded us for over two years shows no sign of relenting. New variants can still infect vaccinated workers, albeit with mostly mild symptoms.
Ways to Ensure Workplace Safety on Site
First and foremost, you need to get acquainted with the OSH Act of 1970. Use it to anchor all aspects of your workplace safety efforts. This way, you can rest assured that you don’t fall short in terms of compliance.
Here’s what to focus on for a comprehensive workplace safety culture:
Keep workplace free of hazards
Examine the workplace to pinpoint problem areas. For starters, litter that may obstruct the vision and movement of workers should be eliminated. If necessary, warn employees of potential hazards using labels, signs, posters, or color codes. The objective is to meet all applicable OSHA standards, rules, and regulations.
Suppose you’re running a construction project where falls prove most prevalent. Ensure workers are given reliable tools, such as ladders and scaffolding.
Meanwhile, in manufacturing, where handling objects comprises a huge portion of injuries, make sure tasks are relegated among those physically equipped to carry them out. That shows you know how to take care of manufacturing talent.
Ensure employees have appropriate equipment and training
Equipment maintenance should be consistently on schedule. Neglected equipment will not only result in delayed production should it conk out but can also cause harm to workers. Both will prove detrimental to your business.
On top of strict equipment maintenance, provide proper and sufficient training to workers on how pieces of equipment are handled. Safety training should be provided, too. These educational programs should be conducted in accessible language.
Lastly, provide workers with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). That’s their first line of defense against injuries.
Record any work-related injuries or illnesses
Workplaces with fewer than 10 employees and those in certain industries deemed as low hazards are exempt from this OSHA regulation.
Obviously, this exemption does not apply to construction and manufacturing, where recordkeeping of work-related injuries or illnesses is of the essence. That is given the prevalence of incidents.
For recordkeeping, use the OSHA Form 300A. Remember to include all pertinent details in these documents. And should employees request access to these forms, grant them. The same goes for authorized representatives.
When required by OSHA, conduct medical examinations. But do not use whatever results you glean from these examinations against employees. That would equate to health discrimination. For that, you might become legally liable.
Furthermore, you cannot discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the OSH Act, as in the case of whistleblowers. The OSHA enforces a Whistleblower Protection Program, prohibiting employers from taking adverse actions—dismissal, demotion, denial of benefits, reduction of working hours or pay, refusal to hire or rehire, intimidation, and the like—against employees for reporting workplace safety and health violations.
Adopt a safety and health program
Employees need to be made aware of hazardous chemicals present in the workplace. A written hazard communication program should be in place. The program’s goal is to disseminate information regarding risk factors and the essential precautions workers need to adhere to.
This goes without saying that all workplace setups, regardless of proximity to hazardous chemicals, require a safety and health program. Of course, the details of which will vary depending on present dangers.
Elect a designated OSHA compliance officer as part of your safety and health program. Their work is to conduct scheduled inspections and audits for strict adherence.
Lastly, it won’t hurt if this program incorporates security systems that will allow monitoring of employees and recordkeeping of incidents.
How to Start a Safety and Health Program
The OSH Act operates within a relatively simple paradigm. It hones in on the following:
- Prevention of occupational injuries and work-related illnesses
- Improvement of organizational compliance
- Reduction of costs linked to occupational injuries and diseases
- Engagement of workers
- Enhancement of objectives on social responsibility
- Improvement of overall business productivity
The achievement of these goals relies on strict consideration of the core elements governing workplace safety. Those include:
- Management leadership
- Worker participation
- Hazard identification and assessment
- Hazard prevention and control
- Education and training
- Program evaluation and improvement
- Communication and coordination
Once these core elements are duly noted and established, program execution becomes less challenging to carry out. For your guidance, follow these recommendations.
#1. Establish health and safety as a core value
Workplace safety should not be an afterthought. It should be up there in the top-tier list of business priorities alongside profit generation. As such, it must be embedded in the organizational culture.
#2. Lead by example
On-site workers cannot assume the sole responsibility for workplace safety. The ideal scenario is having leaders who actively support and follow safety policies and procedures. Employees who see their superiors earnestly committed to the cause are more likely to adhere to it with the same seriousness.
#3. Establish a reporting system
Workplace safety policies and procedures are for naught if there’s no clear and specific way to report incidents. Empower employees to come forward should cases happen where health and safety are compromised. Make sure these reports are acknowledged properly.
#4. Crowdsource ideas
Coming up with policies and procedures should not be limited to top managers. Those who work on the ground know their situation best and, therefore, could provide invaluable insights on how to improve workplace safety.
Make it a habit to consult with all members of the organization for transparency and participation. This level of employee involvement should be sought out when considering updates in other aspects of business management, too, such as when you’re looking to purchase new equipment.
#5. Address emergencies
Anything that puts a worker at risk should be dealt with head-on. Nothing should be swept under the rug because that gives the wrong message. Prompt and adequate troubleshooting of emergencies will let your employees know that you have their welfare in mind. That, in turn, will encourage them to actively engage in workplace safety efforts.
Keeping On-Site Workers Safe
On top of the physical, emotional, and psychological damage workers suffer as a result of occupational accidents and work-related diseases, failure to safeguard your on-site workers will also have detrimental effects on your business.
For starters, there’s the obvious delay in production that takes place. There’s also the decline of the corporate image to contend with. Plus, you will be legally liable for these mishaps. That would culminate in incurring financial burdens linked to compensation for victims.
Those unfavorable scenarios suffice to support the need for workplace policies and procedures that leave no room for misinterpretation. Your entire team must be on the same page and actively on board.
About the Author!
Diana San Diego is the VP of Marketing for O’keeffe’s Inc. aluminum ladders. She has over 15 years of experience in public relations, marketing, and the architectural glazing industry. Outside of work, Diana enjoys golf, wine, and travel.