In India, safety hazards in the workplace are a critical concern, with numerous accidents occurring each year that result in injuries, disabilities, and even fatalities. According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, over 48,000 workplace accidents occurred in 2019 alone, resulting in over 48,000 fatalities.
To address these safety risks, companies of all sizes and across all industries are keen to minimize their workers' injury and illness and implement a robust health and safety management system.
Whether you have no existing measures in place or want to improve your existing occupational health and system, it is essential to understand the what is the importance of occupational health and safety.
What Is Occupational Health And Safety?
Occupational health and safety (OHS) refer to the policies, procedures, and practices that are put in place to promote and maintain employee health, safety, and well-being in the workplace. Simply put, it is all about protecting the health and safety of your workers.
OHS involves identifying potential hazards and risks and taking appropriate measures to control or eliminate them. The aim is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, and promote a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.
What Is The Importance Of Occupational Health And Safety?
Occupational health and safety is a crucial aspect of workplace management.
The first and foremost reason OHS is important is it saves lives and prevents injuries. Workplace accidents can cause serious harm, from minor cuts and bruises to permanent disabilities and even death.
Employers who implement OHS measures reduce the risk of accidents and create a safer work environment for their employees. This protects employees from harm, reduces absenteeism, and increases productivity.
Speaking of productivity, OHS promotes a positive workplace culture. Employees who feel that their employer cares about their safety and well-being are more motivated and engaged. This boosts employee morale, reduces turnover rates, and creates collaborative and supportive working conditions.
Moreover, OHS measures also benefit employers. OHS measures can help reduce the risk of legal liabilities and workers' compensation claims. It can also improve the organization's reputation. You will also see a better retention rate and attract talented employees who value a safe and healthy work environment.
How To Promote Occupational Health And Safety In Workplace?
Promoting occupational health and safety in the workplace is critical to ensure the well-being of employees and prevent accidents or hazards. By implementing effective strategies and practices, employers can create a culture that prioritizes workplace safety and empowers employees to take an active role in maintaining a safe working environment.
1. Identify workplace safety hazards
As a first step to protecting employees, you must identify workplace safety hazards and issues. Common ones may include ergonomics, the presence of weather-related hazards, dangers of falling, restricted visibility, noise pollution, mechanical problems, and hazardous chemicals.
Workplace hazards can result in serious injuries, illnesses, or even death, which can have significant negative impacts on employees' lives, families, and the company as a whole.
Employers should identify hazards and address them. This can create a safer work environment, reduce the likelihood of accidents, and improve employee morale and productivity. It can also help companies avoid costly penalties and lawsuits related to workplace safety violations.
2. Training employees
To ensure workplace safety, employees must understand its significance and know how to implement safety practices. Training is crucial and provides the necessary knowledge and skills to maintain a safe working environment. This reduces the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities that occur on the job.
That being said, employers cannot adopt a one-time approach to employee safety training. Regular reinforcement of safety practices is necessary to keep them at the forefront of employees' minds and reduce the likelihood of overlooking safety measures in the haste to complete work.
Supervisors can hold brief safety meetings before work commences, asking employees about potential safety hazards and how to address them.
Alternatively, a more informal approach involves acknowledging good safety practices in real time and providing corrective feedback when they don’t follow protocols.
You can invest in safety training software or apps that provide on-demand access to videos. After watching the videos, employees can take a short quiz to assess their understanding of the material.
This approach can be a practical and efficient way to deliver ongoing training while also documenting it.
3. Use signs and labels
To communicate crucial safety information in the workplace, employers may use labels and signs. Using labels and signs as communication tools is an effective and inexpensive approach. They are simple and rely on images to convey hazards and proper procedures.
They provide guidance on safety procedures, identify potential hazards, or direct employees to emergency exits or first aid kits.
It is crucial to position them in visible locations, particularly in areas with high traffic or near equipment, to ensure that all workers can easily see them.
Workers may not be aware of the necessary safety protocols if the protocols are not placed in prominent locations. Furthermore, they serve as a useful reminder and warning to even the most experienced workers.
4. Providing access to information for all employees
Empowering employees with knowledge is vital in promoting workplace safety. To achieve this, employers should ensure that all resources, including instructional safety videos, presentations, and other safety-related documents, are accessible via the company's internal data-sharing platform.
Staff should be required to read and comprehend these resources to demonstrate the company's commitment to promoting employee safety.
In addition to instructional materials, the company should also make accident reports, investigations, and other relevant information available. This ensures that everyone is informed about what has been done and what still needs to be done in specific situations.
5. Create a safety incentive program
Employers can unlock a new level of employee motivation by introducing a reward program that’s incentive-based for workplace safety goals. These programs can inspire employees to create a safer working environment and reward them for reducing hazards or accidents.
However, it's crucial to get the balance right when designing these programs. Small rewards may not be enough to inspire employees, while large ones may discourage workers from reporting incidents.
The key is to strike the right chord between reward and recognition, creating a culture that prioritizes workplace safety and empowers employees to make a difference.
6. Promote employee well-being
Employers can demonstrate appreciation for their employees by taking steps to prioritize their health and well-being, beyond just monetary rewards. You can provide the necessary resources to perform their work efficiently, such as investing in technology upgrades, providing comfortable chairs and tables, and updated software.
Small things like face masks, face shields, hand sanitizers, and other forms of disinfectant can also show that you care about their well-being.
You can also help your employees access telehealth consultations to reduce the time, money, and energy spent on in-person visits.
Further, to improve the physical and mental well-being of your staff, you can invest in wellness programs.
These programs promote various aspects of employee well-being, which can lead to a safer and more productive work environment.
7. Inspect equipment regularly
Maintaining a safe and healthy work environment requires conducting regular inspections of workplace equipment. Daily quick checks before operating equipment, as well as more detailed inspections weekly, are necessary to detect any equipment malfunctions or defects.
Employers must ensure that all equipment, tools, and office fixtures undergo regular cleaning, servicing, and maintenance to prevent safety hazards.
Promptly addressing malfunctioning machines or equipment is crucial to avoid potential health or safety risks for employees. It also maintains a balance between safety and work efficiency.
Failing to inspect equipment could result in machine malfunctions. It’s one of the most dangerous workplace hazards that may put the lives of workers at risk.
8. Encourage breaks
Encourage employees to take their scheduled breaks to maintain productivity in the workplace. Regular breaks help keep individuals alert, steer clear of injuries, avoid stress, enhance efficiency, and boost health.
Keeping aside five minutes in a day to stretch goes a long way. It helps escape from common injuries or health problems at work, like pain, soreness, strain, sprains, etc. It also eases muscle tension and loosens joints, which reduces any potential repetitive motion injuries.
Improved Employee Health & Safety With A Safe Working Environment
Organizations must regularly study and update their measures, guidelines, and procedures to maintain health and safety in the workplace. This is necessary to keep up with changes that may be linked to new management and executives, business expansion, new facilities, and additional equipment. In other words, it should continually evolve with the changes happening within the organization.