For just a few minutes, let’s forget the OSHA rules, the EHS standards, the laws and the regulations. Let’s talk about what matters most: Making sure your business meets the bottom line, and making sure the people who keep things running are safe. Or in five words – revenue, profits, and workplace safety.
Are you responsible for implementing safety training at your company? Or are you an employee who has to go through training because it’s required? Either way, you need to see this as an opportunity not just to make your business safer, but as an opportunity to make everyone there happier and more productive.
Sure, OSHA hands down the rules we all have to follow. And those rules are in place for good reasons. There’s no way to measure the damage to American families when 4,500 workers die every year, when more than four million are seriously injured, and when tens of thousands more are killed or incapacitated because of occupational illnesses such as cancer and lung disease.
Those stats alone should be enough for you to approach training not as an inconvenient chore but as a way protect yourself and your workers. But let’s look at the comprehensive effects of workplace safety training. Let’s look at some of the unexpected things that can happen when a business develops a “culture of safety.”
First, a culture of safety is a place where injury and illness prevention programs don’t drill rules into workers’ heads and punish them when they screw up. A culture of safety emphasizes responsibility at the manager level and employee engagement at all levels. It identifies and eliminates all potential risks without necessarily blaming or embarrassing our fellow workers when they mess up.
Effective workplace safety training gets the workers involved by seeking their input, by letting them talk about what they experience daily, and by letting them share ideas with one another and with managers. Employee participation and open communication during training let everyone on the job know that they are important. Their ideas matter. If the workers at your place of business feel like part of the process, they’re much more likely to remember the things they learn during safety training. They’re more likely to take it seriously. They’ll also be more likely to discuss what they’re learning among themselves, which in turn helps them monitor one another to ensure safe work every day. The end result is not only a culture of safety but greater loyalty and satisfaction among employees. This, in turn, means lower absenteeism and higher productivity.
A culture of safety doesn’t have to cost your company enormous investment of time and resources. Safety programs can be scaled to fit businesses of every size, in every industry. The important thing is to implement proven principles that emphasize compliance with laws and regulations established to make business operations safe and to do it in a way that makes everyone involved feel like they have a stake in the process.
Need help? OSHA has outreach programs to help businesses develop effective safety programs. They include OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) and Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). Participating businesses consistently experience fewer injuries and illnesses. They are also more productive and have reduced turnover. There is a significant reduction in workers’ compensation costs (and the bosses love that). Finally, these businesses also gain a reputation as industry leaders that keep their workers—who are always their most valuable assets—safe and happy.
Every business is different, so unfortunately there is no “one size fits all” approach to safety training. But all good safety programs are built on inclusive education that transforms the work culture. If you are responsible for safety at your business and you aren’t sure how to go about starting a training program, you can download our free eBook, “How to Build a Safety Program,” which addresses OSHA compliance in the workplace and how EHS managers can get started building a culture of safety today.