1. Clean up the workplace
Slipping and tripping is always near the top of the list of workplace injuries. According to Phil LaDuke, who presented a talk on “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here: Housekeeping and Safety” at the National Safety Congress & Expo, “Good housekeeping is the single greatest tool for creating a safe workplace; it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s incredibly effective, and yet whenever I go into a factory or a warehouse the people there try to defend the mess as absolutely necessary. It’s not necessary and it is dangerous.”
Blocked pedestrian routes are the most common problem and a source of many injuries as workers are forced to walk where they are not intended to walk. LaDuke encourages organizations to get rid of unnecessary junk, designate a place, label and footprint everything.
2. Make safety personal
EHS Today annually recognizes America’s safest companies. One of the 18 companies recently named to the 2014 list was Egan Company, a specialty contractor. “Our motto is ‘Safety Brings You Home,'” said Jim Malecha of Egan Co., “Several years ago, we looked at adopting slogans like ‘Zero Injuries’ or ‘Target Zero.’ We felt these slogans were more about statistics than about our employees. We wanted a saying that emphasized to our employees that safety was about them and their families.”
Many employees have preconceived notions about safety training, viewing it as mundane, boring and perfunctory. To be effective, training must be personal and relevant to the workplace. The use of personal stories, real experiences, pictures and employee interaction can be far more effective than Powerpoints or canned videos.
3. Don’t assume that common sense will prevail
Throughout the day, employers and supervisors make assumptions about how employees will behave. New employees who received safety training will know what to do or will ask questions, yet often they are afraid to ask questions. When workers are given respiratory or hearing protection equipment, employers know that training is required. Often this is not so for personal protective clothing. Erroneously, it’s assumed that workers will know what to do, but they don’t. Workers need to be trained to look for holes, tears, damage or missing or broken fasteners. They should know how and where to use the gear, don it and remove it.
Also, often overlooked are employees who do not work in areas with hazards, but who may walk through them regularly. They, too, need to be part of the training process.
4. Foster mentoring
After a training session, there is an expectation of an immediately changed, competent worker. This is a very simplistic view of training. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, skills acquired in training must be used quickly. The American Society for Training and Development states by the time an employee goes back to the job, 90% of what was learned in training is lost. Retention is only 10%. Training should be designed to help employees get access to information and this includes mentoring to ensure that they properly apply the skills they’ve acquired.
5. Know injury trends
Many organizations do not assess their training needs. They focus on standard programs that are aimed at complying with state or federal laws. Yet, by understanding injury trends, limited safety resources can be invested in the most effective ways. This involves reviewing reports of injuries and near misses, as well as safety observations. If back injuries are trending upward, it might simply mean more lifting training is required or it might mean that increased hours and reduced staff have led to overexertion. Determining the reasons for the trends requires honesty and self-assessment and is as important as knowing the trends.
by Paul Hughes
UNICO Group Insurance
UNICO Group Insurance specializes in handling workers’ compensation claims, return-to-work programs and injury management. Contact us today at 402-434-7200 or visit our website at www.unicogroup.com for more information.