Why should you improve your safety program in 2023? There are multiple reasons, including enhanced injury prevention and compliance with an increasingly aggressive federal OSHA.
Let’s start with compliance and how OSHA came out swinging at the beginning of the year.
1. OSHA compliance
At the end of January 2023, OSHA made a formal announcement that it was changing its enforcement guidance to “target employers who put profit over safety.”
How is it doing this? By allowing its regional administrators and area office directors to have the authority to cite:
- certain kinds of violations as “instance-by-instance citations” for high-gravity serious violations, and
- violations separately instead of grouping them.
This means, in short, that the agency will be able to impose more impactful penalties than it did before because there will be a wider range of violations that count as egregious, according to law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius.
Law firm Keller and Heckman feel OSHA is taking a page out of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s book, which says, “If a penalty is to achieve deterrence, both the violator and the general public must be convinced that the penalty places the violator in a worse position than those who have complied in a timely fashion.”
By the way, federal OSHA’s maximum fines for willful and repeat violations increased from $145,027 per violation to $156,259 per violation in January 2023.
If compliance and saving the company money by avoiding fines is important, then now would be a great time to improve your safety program.
2. More importantly, enhanced injury, illness prevention
However, everyone knows that safety professionals care about more than just compliance and saving the company money – they want to make sure the workers on their watch go home safe and sound every day.
And there’s no better reason than that to begin improving your safety program.
Workers do care about safety. No one wants to get injured and workers who feel that their place of employment isn’t safe won’t stick around for long.
Ideally, making improvements to an existing safety program will help further reduce the rate of injuries and illnesses in the workplace by more efficiently addressing hazards and preparing employees to do the same.
3. Reduced workers’ compensation costs
Thanks to that reduction in work-related injuries and illnesses, there will also be a reduction in workers’ compensation costs.
Improvements made to a safety program will drive down the number of injuries and illnesses workers suffer, which means the company will save money by not having to:
- pay associated workers’ compensation costs, and
- face expenses for training new workers to replace those who have been injured long-term.
Considering that the average workers’ compensation claim cost $41,353 in 2020 and there were 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2021, the money saved isn’t “chump change” by any stretch of the imagination.
4. Worker engagement
An improved safety program will enhance your company’s safety culture, which leads to better worker engagement.
As stated above, workers do care about safety and the company should want to cater to that. Why?
Because “it’s all about creating a good experience, because negative experiences tend to persist in the mind longer than the good ones,” according to safety expert Shawn Galloway at a National Safety Council conference.
Engagement is made of three things, according to Galloway:
- participation, and
To get employee buy-in, get them to participate in the process of developing safety. That gives them a sense of ownership not just over the safety program, but over their job as a whole.
5. Increased productivity
Workers who make the effort to pay attention to their own safety and the safety of their co-workers are likely to pay closer attention to other aspects of their job – that means a safer workplace is also a more productive workplace.
Making improvements to your safety program means you’re also contributing to the overall productivity of the workforce as a side benefit.
What improvements to make
Now that there are multiple reasons to make improvements to your safety program, the question becomes, “What improvements should I make?”
A good starting point would be to go over your existing procedures and training programs with a critical eye to make sure they cover all of the hazards that need addressing in your workplace. If you find that anything is lacking, take the time to address it.
After that, take a look at the program as a whole and determine if your company’s leadership has taken an active role in promoting safety. Management buy-in is extremely important and a safety program that’s got leadership support will be more effective. The reason for this is because workers will see managers leading by example and managers will be more likely to factor safety into operational planning and decision making. If your program doesn’t have much management support, you may want make an effort to get company leaders onboard.
You also want to make sure workers have an active part in the program. They typically know the most about the hazards they face everyday on the job and when they’re involved in finding solutions to these hazards they’ll feel more invested in the program, which leads to better engagement. If you don’t already have this kind of buy-in from employees, you’ll have to make sure they feel respected and have no fear of retaliation.
Finally, make sure you conduct regular inspections to see if there are any new or emerging hazards in the workplace. Involve employees and management as both will have unique perspectives and this will help lead to buy-in from both sides. Address any new hazards as they come up, ensuring that you add procedures and training for mitigating them going forward.
Ideally, making improvements to an existing safety program will help further reduce the rate of injuries and illnesses in the workplace by more efficiently addressing hazards and preparing employees to do the same. Learn more on how you can save time, improve efficiency, and transform your workplace safety program from reactive to proactive.