It may come as somewhat of a shock to most of us, but workplace safety is actually a pretty substantial issue in the United States. For a developed country, we have a lot of preventable accidents happen — nearly 7 million workplace injuries per year! This number certainly doesn’t include all of the times employees feel like they have to take unnecessary risks to get a job done or fail to report relatively minor injuries and close calls.
Obviously, as a manager, one of the most important things you can do is take steps to ensure your employees are working in a safe and healthy work environment. Where there are inherent risks, it is your duty to educate employees and put forth an effort to mitigate them as much as possible. Beyond just physical health, this also means providing a safe place mentally and socially as well.
Especially in the era of COVID-19, taking the time to assess risks and make calculated efforts to limit health disasters is of the utmost importance. The challenges may be different, but ultimately the responsibility is the same.
Here are some things you can do as a manager to help ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all of your employees.
Encourage a Culture of Safety
It isn’t always easy to encourage employees to take workplace safety seriously, If your company has been fortunate enough to have avoided injuries for quite some time, it can be easy to become complacent. In these situations, one of the best things you as a manager can do is lead by example. Take safety seriously and do your best to encourage others to do so as well.
Education and constant reminders are some of the best tools for building an atmosphere of safety. Take steps to ensure that all employees are properly trained and have received the appropriate equipment to complete their jobs prior to them starting work. In addition, put signage and other forms of visual reminders where people will see them regularly.
Some of the most common workplace injuries come from tasks that employees do nearly every day without an issue. It can be in the form of an object falling on them, repetitive motion injuries, strains, overexertion, or overexposure to loud noises. As a manager, encourage employees to take the time they need to do the job effectively and safely without rushing. Frequent breaks to rest and stretch can also help.
Promote Personal Health
No matter what you think is going on in one of your employee’s lives, chances are you don’t really know or understand the whole story. Employees could be dealing with all sorts of hidden issues or unseen disabilities that make work more challenging than it should be. Although personal issues really shouldn’t be allowed to impact work performance, we’re all human and occasionally things leak over on accident.
As a manager, strive to help employees promote their own personal health in any way that you can. For instance, make sure you are ADA compliant and capable of supporting all employees no matter the situation.
Likewise, encourage employees to do small things that will benefit their health in the long-term. For instance, taking regular work breaks and going on walks can relieve stress and help tense muscles relax. If possible, work towards offering wellness programs and health-related perks to employees such as gym membership discounts or free yoga classes once or twice a week during lunch.
Create a Friendly Atmosphere
The atmosphere of your workplace is a commonly undervalued factor when assessing the health and safety of a workplace. It may not seem obvious, but a negative company culture or a few tasteless or rude employees can completely change the tone of an office space. This can lead to decreases in employee satisfaction and productivity as well as increase feelings of stress and anxiety in the workplace — neither of which should be present in an employee truly feels safe.
One of the big things you can do as a manager is spot problems early and work towards addressing them before they blow up. Encourage the use of inclusive language in the workplace — this can help employees feel less alienated by coworkers with different values and more part of a larger team. If disagreements do arise, work through them as a neutral character and try to address them with empathy and compassion.
The role of employers is changing when it comes to workplace safety. Twenty or thirty years ago safety may have only included physical health; now it includes not only physical health, but mental health, inclusion, protection from harassment, and cybersecurity. As a manager, this means there is a lot on your plate when it comes to the health and welfare of your employees.
Workplace safety is a serious issue in many workplaces. Managers must work to encourage an atmosphere of both physical safety, equality, and inclusiveness in the workplace. It isn’t always an easy task, but it can be a rewarding one at the end of the day.