The first, important step to creating a solid worker safety program is with a thorough risk assessment of the workplace.
But what many people don’t know is that risk assessments are not a one-time project.
Does your workplace stay the same over the years, with the same staff and conditions? No, not often. It changes over time and so do your safety risks and hazards, so regularly assessing any existing threats to your team should be in your calendar.
Since March, the constantly changing workplace became more unpredictable with COVID-19 spreading across the globe.
What this virus presents is an invisible and somewhat unpredictable new hazard threatening your team – on top of the existing hazards they already face.
Exhaustive risk assessments will note and document COVID and other threats, allowing you to plan ways of eliminating, or at least mitigating before someone is hurt.
It goes without saying that employers should have safety measures in place should an injury or emergency take place, so that you can respond to the situation immediately and effectively, making sure the worker’s safety is addressed properly and quickly.
But while reactive safety measures are important, proactive approaches are equally, if not more, crucial to ensure that the well-being of your valuable team.
Your risk assessment should:
- Identify all hazards and risks that could potentially harm your team.
- Look at each hazard and the unique safety risks your workers face as a result.
- Determine the most effective actions to take to mitigate the hazard or, at least, establish some control over the risks associated with the hazard if it can’t be eliminated.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “One of the ‘root causes’ of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents is the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present, or that could have been anticipated. A critical element of any effective safety and health program is a proactive, ongoing process to identify and assess such hazards.”
Gives you the big picture
The risk assessment looks at all equipment, situations, and processes that could cause harm to workers.
This is an opportunity to prevent injuries or even death before they happen. This is also a way to protect your company from debilitating lawsuits, showing that you have done diligence to protect your employees.
Gives you many answers
A risk assessment also answers several big questions that every employer and employee has, no matter what industry you’re in. These include:
- What sorts of dangers are my team members experiencing? What could they face in the future?
- What are the potential consequences of these hazards and risks? How serious are they?
- How likely are these emergency situations to take place?
- Is this safety risk being addressed properly? Can more be done?
Gives you the opportunity to build safety culture
As the employer, you must constantly look out for any potential safety hazards, you must also rely on your team to help point them out as they are the ones most affected.
An important factor in a safe workplace is having a solid culture of safety where your team is engaged, educated and trained in all aspects that protect themselves and their co-workers.
You need to create a comfortable and open work environment where your team will feel safe to speak up at work and to express their concerns around safety in the workplace.
Your team is your greatest resource for identifying hazards around the workplace because they may see dangerous situations through a different lens than yours.
Make sure you reward those who pinpoint hazards, creating engaged team members who are enthusiastic about watching each other’s backs.
It is integral to involve your team in their safety, training and educating them in the significant benefits of any measure and processes. While safety consequences may be dire, make safety training a normal part of the job, engaging your employees so that they play an important role in the welfare of the team.
Gives you insight
The potential hazards in any workplace can be many, especially when you’re exploring hypothetical situations that have never occurred before. When identifying hazards, you obviously need to look at all aspects of each job. But there are other, universal situations that every employer can assess such as:
- When visitors or the public are at the workplace.
- The different phases of a project that present new risks.
- Records and history of past accidents and/or close calls.
- “Innocent,” non-routine tasks such a cleaning, equipment maintenance and cleaning or even driving to different locations.
- The frequency and amount of time tasks take and how that can impact safety.
- The potential dangers of different locations where work is being done.
- Interactions with non-work-related people and factors such as cleaners, delivery people, etc.
- Remote, lone and teleworkers, and what unique hazards they might face.
- How different personalities may respond to a dangerous situation.
- Unusual conditions like extreme weather or power outages.
- The safety training and education your workers have received and how it can be possibly improved or updated.
Gives you many benefits
When performed correctly, a risk assessment can have many valuable benefits that impact all areas of your organization in the near and distant future such as:
- Helping you prioritize your safety measures and processes, according to which hazards are most dangerous.
- Providing you and your workers insight into what safety hazards they face when they go to work.
- Allowing you to be aware of and satisfy any legal requirement in your area.
- Showing you who, on your team, are at most risk of certain hazards.
- Empowering you to put the appropriate safety measures in place to mitigate these risks and hazards – it shows what you can do as an employer.
Gives you peace of mind
But one rarely noted major benefit of risk assessment and identification is the improved mental health of both the employer and the team.
Knowing that everything is being done to protect the workers brings priceless peace of mind to the entire organization, reducing debilitating stress and anxiety when the job is performed.
Workplace stress not only affects the happiness of your team, but it can also significantly impair work quality and productivity. Conducting regular risk assessments yield several invaluable long- and short-term benefits for you team and operations – they’re the best thing you can do to protect your crew.