Benefits (and Challenges) of Ensuring a Safe Workplace
A properly-implemented workplace health and safety program acts as both a safe-guard for individuals and a strategy for employee satisfaction and company growth.
Are your employees safe? Workplace safety is a concept often left to industries that have known safety risks -- construction companies, manufacturing facilities, hospitals, or chemical plants, for example. However, the matter of safety in the workplace isn’t limited to specific industries.
Even if your employees spend much of their day behind the desk or register, safety education and procedures should be a regular part of your operational strategy. In fact, a properly-implemented workplace health and safety program acts as both a safe-guard for individuals and a strategy for employee satisfaction and company growth.
Why Would a Business Need to Improve the Safety of Its Workplace?
Primarily, it is your legal obligation to uphold a safe workplace for your employees. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), companies and employers must provide “a safe and healthful environment” by offering training and education and enforcing standard industry safety compliance.
This includes ensuring your workplace is free of recognized hazards, malfunctioning equipment, toxic fumes, or other tangible hazards. However, it also means addressing industry-specific safety concerns, properly educating and informing employees about safety procedures, submitting to OSHA inspections, and reporting accidents.
While being legally compliant is important, legal requirements aren’t the only reason you should invest in your own workplace safety program. There are other benefits to caring about your workers.
THE BENEFITS OF A SAFER WORKPLACE
The benefits of a safer workplace exceed well beyond basic OSHA compliance. By taking the necessary steps to secure your workplace, you’ll find that the following is true:
Safer, Healthier, & Happier Employees
For many of us, the workplace is filled with enough challenges and stressors, but justifiable safety concerns can increase stress and anxiety with workers. If an employee does get hurt, that workplace anxiety can progress throughout your staff as they recognize perceived dangers. If morale dips in the workplace, then you may create more problems at work.
Improves Employee Retention
If employees observe their employer taking steps to protect them against workplace hazards, they will feel both safer and more valued as a part of the company. When the opposite is true, employees are more likely to leave for safer working conditions and better care.
Fewer injuries, less downtime, and higher morale may lead to increased productivity. Furthermore, productivity can also improve when employees are following instructions properly. For example, educating on proper equipment operation is important for safety, but it also ensures your employees perform their jobs correctly. At any rate, avoiding injury is also the most efficient way to maintain productivity.
Reduced Company Liability
As indicated above, failure to comply with OSHA is a liability, but failing to create a safe workplace can quickly lead to other litigation issues. If an employee is injured while working, your company can face lawsuits from the individual employee, unions, or the government. Costly litigation can quickly leave your business in a dire financial situation.
WHAT CHALLENGES CAN YOU EXPECT?
Improving workplace safety will have long term benefits, but there are some obstacles to consider and plan for.
Employee training and onboarding costs, facility updates, equipment maintenance, compliance team wages can all increase operational overhead costs. It costs money to be safe, and this will cut into bottom line.
Ensuring New Regulations Compliance
As with any new policy or procedure, ensuring compliance can take time and effort. As you implement your new safety measures, you and your team leaders will need to dedicate time to monitoring compliance. Not everyone is going to be on the same page, so communication is key moving forward.
Creating More Red Tape
The quickest or easiest way isn’t always the safest way, and implementing new safety regulations may create bureaucratic roadblocks for certain jobs. This can impede communication, hurt productivity, and cause headaches.
Change is hard, especially for employees who have become accustomed to their jobs. Not everyone is going to agree with a new regulation. New procedures often require training which may be a hassle and take time away from the actual job. All of this can exacerbate employee relations.
It's Safe to Say...
Despite any challenges, it's important to maintain a legally compliant workplace that keeps employees out of harm’s way. As you make changes to existing procedures and regulations, communicate with employees, recognize their concerns, and ensure they understand the importance of safety and vigilance. You may find that the benefits are worth the additional cost – aside from legal compliance. In the end, safety should never be optional. Instead, business owners should look to workplace safety as a moral, financial, and legal requirement.
Andrew Rombach is a Content Associate for LendEDU – a website that helps consumers and small business owners with their finances.