The importance of occupational safety cannot be underestimated. It is particularly important for individuals, but in an ever-evolving business environment, its significance to organisations of all sizes is constantly growing. Many people come up with ways to improve occupational safety as their primary duty at work. Here are some simple and practical tips for improving occupational safety that we have heard our customers use in developing occupational safety.
1. Make a written plan
All development work systematically aimed at achieving results should be based on goals. Setting goals is a demanding task in its own right, which requires understanding and up-to-date information of the current situation, especially from management. In particular, the goals aimed at improving occupational safety should also be known to the employees.
However, these goals cannot be achieved without any effort, or else they cannot be regarded as good goals. How the goals can be achieved is another issue altogether. There are as many methods as there are goals, and it is not necessarily possible to predict how well they will work. You can be sure, however, that on the way towards your goals, you will encounter more or less unexpected setbacks.
A planned approach will also help anticipate and respond to challenges related to improving occupational safety. It is imperative that the plans are made in writing, and careful consideration should be given to their preparation. Plans made too hastily or only verbally tend to lack clarity in terms of both schedule and content, and will certainly not result in achieving the goals.
Occupational safety, in particular, is too important an issue to be sacrificed on the altar of poor planning. A good and successful written plan is best achieved when it is based on an accurate and up-to-date situational picture. In the plan, it is worth recording not only the goals, but also the means by which they are to be achieved. In addition to the means, it is also smart to include in the written plan a target date for achieving the goals, or at least time intervals for monitoring the achievement of intermediate goals.
2. Commit employees to the development and goals of occupational safety
Adequate resources are always on the wish list of everyone working on development. The optimisation of operations and the right attitude can work wonders, but time, in particular, is always limited. One person cannot do everything, and various committees, which are usually responsible for developing occupational safety, cannot on their own replace old and customary operating models with new ones.
Employees are surprisingly often overlooked as an asset, particularly in the development of occupational safety. However, resource-wise development requires that the support provided by employees is not wasted in the process of improving occupational safety. As occupational safety concerns everyone, the motivation to develop it could easily be expected to be very high. However, practice has shown that this is not always the case. For some, occupational safety and its importance are self-evident, while others completely ignore it from the outset. Resistance to change, attitude problems and prejudices do not make development work any easier.
In particular, monitoring, which is necessary for systematic development, may make many people bristle. From the perspective of someone with an attitude problem, monitoring may seem like sheer bullying and micromanagement. Openness helps reduce resistance to change. Committing employees to the development and goals of occupational safety requires determination, but, above all, openness and transparency.
Occupational safety puts everyone on the same level. That is why it is important that everyone has the opportunity to learn from others’ activities and examples. However, in most cases, an open and transparent approach to improving occupational safety requires the right tools to create better operating models.
3. Make regular risk assessments
The up-to-dateness of the situational picture has an unpredictably large impact on the opportunities for the development of occupational safety. Occupational safety is a textbook example of the importance of knowledge-based management, and without up-to-date information, it can only succeed partly. The development of occupational safety is not possible if the current situational picture is based on guesses, however educated they may be.
Not all the challenges and problems that stand in the way of improving occupational safety are equal. Some have a larger impact than others, and some may even seem harmless on the surface – until it is too late to remedy the situation. Sometimes a whole set of new opportunities have been lost among the development challenges, and it is impossible to take advantage of them if their very existence is a mystery. An up-to-date situational picture enables the identification of the most critical areas and the targeting of development measures on them. On the other hand, creating one requires that the identification and assessment of hazards and risks at work is regular, systematic and commensurate.
In the real world, situations are constantly evolving and changing, which makes one-off solutions only a momentary source of satisfaction and help. This should be taken into account when assessing the risks of the work, bearing in mind that the situation should be reassessed from time to time. Measures aimed at improving the occupational safety situation also have an impact, which means that their progress should definitely be included in regular situation reports and reassessments. For example, an annual clock for risk management is a good tool that can also be used as the backbone of the development of occupational safety.
4. Make safety rounds a regular practice
Occupational safety improves through practical actions, and its problems cannot be solved from behind a desk, even if the decisions always come from that direction. The successful development of occupational safety is based on conclusions that require constantly updated information from the field, where the biggest occupational safety challenges originate.
No safety manager or other person in charge of occupational safety is able to collect all the information necessary for the development of occupational safety on their own. Regular safety rounds are a very practical solution to the information gap and blind spots that weigh on the development of occupational safety.
Without regular safety rounds, during which the safety of the organisation is systematically assessed, the safety culture of the organisation does not have a suitable breeding ground. With the help of safety rounds, the safety assessments of the workplace, individual workstations, the working environment and the working methods can be carried out easily. This makes it possible to harness critical occupational safety information to support decision-making and to assess, assign responsibility for, and manage the risks and hazards that threaten occupational safety. Regular safety rounds keep the development of occupational safety topical in the organisation and support new operating models. The result is, almost without exception, a better occupational safety situation.
5. Abandon Excel
At the end of the day, there are no magic tricks or special shortcuts to improve occupational safety that could be taken advantage of to avoid being humbled by challenges. Development work requires effort, even if it is not rocket science. The only way to achieve results is to do the work, and it should not be made any more difficult than it has to be. The development of occupational safety in practice is not possible without tools.
A significant number of organisations use Excel or other similar spreadsheet software for the development of occupational safety. Of course, in skilled hands, such tools are perfectly suitable for many tasks, but their features are simply not sufficient for the development of occupational safety.
Collecting, maintaining and updating information are the biggest stumbling blocks of these tools. The information is only momentarily up-to-date, not to mention the challenges of its availability. The number of different versions very quickly becomes completely unmanageable, as all information must be updated by hand, and the time spent on it could be used more efficiently and effectively. Employee involvement can only be dreamed of.
Why should occupational safety be improved?
Occupational safety is something that everyone is familiar with in one way or another. For many, however, it is mostly an irritating matter of course, which they preferably only deal with if they have to. Unfortunately, this leads to losing all the long-term competitive advantages that maintaining a safety culture enables the organisation to benefit from.
When occupational safety is appropriately taken care of, it also helps maintain the organisation’s operational reliability. A poor or otherwise deficient occupational safety situation leads unpredictably quickly to absenteeism and reduced work ability, which put a strain on the organisation’s operational capability. The most blatant occupational safety problems may even result in fines.
In organisations that have an evolving safety culture and a proactive approach to taking care of occupational safety, employees are also more productive. In a safe working environment, work is efficient, but also less stressful and straining. Investing in occupational safety and its development will also improve the organisation’s reputation in the employers’ market and among other stakeholders.