Focus on Safe + Sound Week: Improving Worker Safety with Technology

This week marks OSHA’s Safe + Sound week, an annual observance that encourages employers to implement workplace safety initiatives.

OSHA estimates that employers pay nearly $1 billion per week for direct workers' compensation costs alone. That number is staggering considering how even modest investments in worker safety and education can reduce those costs. An effective health and safety program not only helps proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury, but also help improve sustainability and the company’s bottom line.

Safe + Sound Week is a great opportunity to review your workplace safety program and make any necessary updates to improve its effectiveness. This might also be a good time to look into EHS software solutions to help improve your businesses’ safety and health performance, save money, and improve competitiveness. Following, we look at the ten steps OSHA outlines for implementing a complete health and safety program, and offer advice on ways technology can help.

1. Establish safety and health as a core value. This might seem like a given, but establishing a supportive workplace safety culture is a critical first step in implementing a strong health and safety program. It goes above and beyond simply telling workers that they need to be safe, but instead practicing what you preach each and every day. Tell your workers that making sure they go home safe is the way your company does business, and get buy-in from executives so they understand that safety is a priority business objective. Once workers understand how important safety is, they will be more aware of hazards that could injure them or make them sick, and more conscious about taking steps to reduce those risks.

2. Lead by example. For workplace safety programs to be successful, safety must be a part of your daily conversations with workers. Frequent and effective safety meetings have been shown to reduce severe incidents and injuries in the workplace. In fact, they’re so effective that they’re even required in many jurisdictions throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. Most importantly, though, safety meetings provide the foundation for a strong workplace safety culture. Our Safety Meetings solution helps drive employee engagement with automated scheduling and coordination, tracks action items and assignments in real-time, and offers your employees proof that they’ve made positive contributions to your workplace safety culture.

3. Implement a reporting system. As the person responsible for EHS in your organization, you’re expected to not only track and report on workplace injuries, illnesses and other undesired events, but more importantly need to anticipate and prevent them from happening in the first place. Without a clear way to collect that information from workers, you’re unable to implement improvements to help prevent them from happening again. The VelocityEHS Incident Management product delivers a cost-effective way to report, manage, analyze and ultimately prevent workplace incidents. Our intuitive design and mobile capabilities make it easy for your operations-level employees to easily report on incidents and near misses, and conduct comprehensive safety risk assessments and reviews. As a result, you get better data and the ability to implement corrective actions, conduct trend analysis, and complete regulatory and internal reporting requirements.

4. Provide training. Worker training is a critical part workplace safety, but also one of the most commonly overlooked elements of safety programs, with many employers struggling to make it effective, engaging and relevant. This is another way technology is useful. Our Training Management and On-Demand Training solutions deliver the tools necessary to track and manage your employee training needs, while also delivering courses in an engaging format that will help them better retain the information they need to do their jobs safely.

5. Conduct inspections. Audits and inspections are an important health and safety program element, but can be difficult to successfully complete. Managing it with spreadsheets or disjointed legacy software is difficult and time intensive; it’s easy to lose control, especially if you’re trying manage these programs in complex facilities or across large enterprises with multiple locations. The VelocityEHS Audit & Inspection product enables you to conduct audits, inspections, and behavioral safety observations across your entire organization using a single, centralized software system. Quickly and easily deploy an unlimited number of pre-built and custom checklists to pinpoint non-conformances and potential hazards, and instantly initiate corrective actions to bring your compliance up to speed.

6. Collect hazard control ideas. Front-line workers are your biggest defense for proactively reducing hazards because they closely understand the dangers associated with the jobs and tasks they complete every day. A job safety analysis (JSA), also known as a job hazard analysis (JHA), is an effective way of finding and fixing uncontrolled hazards before they occur. It involves breaking down workplace tasks into small steps and paying close attention to employees as they do their jobs, use their tools, and interact with their environments. Once hazards are identified, corrective actions can then be taken to resolve issues. The VelocityEHS Risk Analysis module makes the whole JSA and JHA process faster and simpler by allowing you and your workers to use mobile devices to document hazards, track corrective actions, and share results with other people. This easy access to hazard information and preventive measures means a safer and more efficient workplace for everyone.

7. Implement hazard controls. Once you have more information and data about the hazards that exist in the workplace, it’s important to do something about it. Our Corrective Actions solution makes it easy to mobilize your workforce to help prevent incidents and perform compliance tasks with greater speed and efficiency. It helps ensure your people are on task, that corrective actions are completed on time, and improves transparency of EHS compliance throughout your organization. Another useful solution is our new Industrial Hygiene (IH) software which streamlines IH sampling program management by giving you a simple platform for selecting chemicals to be sampled, identifying correct analytical methods, creating your SEGs, and even helping choose the right laboratories for the job. Along the way, your information is accessible to all parties that need to access it, including corporate EHS representatives, consultants, and laboratory technicians. Our software not only makes your job easier, but helps ensure the seamless hand-off of responsibilities from one stakeholder to the others, minimizing the chance for mistakes or miscommunications and keeping your entire workforce safer.

8. Address emergencies. Sometimes, accidents do happen. The important thing is approaching them in a way that mitigates injuries and helps prevent the incident from occurring again. One way to approach this is by identifying foreseeable emergency scenarios, developing a plan with instructions on what to do in each case, and training workers on these actions. Our Plan1 First Responder Share Service offers an efficient way to provide emergency response teams with quick and easy access to your hazardous chemical inventory information. Through our cloud-based information sharing service, first responders can better plan, prepare and assess the risks associated with emergencies involving hazardous chemicals.

9. Seek input on workplace changes. Before making significant changes to the workplace, work organization, equipment, or materials, consult with workers to identify potential safety or health issues. One way to manage this is through the use of our Management of Change (MOC) solution, which helps streamline operational change within your organization, and creates a systematic approach to managing the people and processes involved. Our MOC software provides a seamless, centralized system for defining and scheduling change, designing workflows, managing documents, creating and deploying checklists, tracking approvals, and assigning action items.

10. Make improvements to the program. Once a safety and health program is established, it should be evaluated periodically to assess what is working and what is not, and whether the program is still on track to achieve its goals. Whenever these assessments occur, it’s important that everyone – including employers, managers, supervisors and workers – make adjustments and monitor how well the program performs as a result. Sharing the results of monitoring and evaluation within the workplace, and celebrating successes, will help drive further improvement.

For more information about Safe + Sound Week, visit www.osha.gov/safeandsoundweek.