While workplaces are certainly safer and healthier than ever, OSHA’s report on work-related fatalities and catastrophes in FY 2015 indicates that there is still more to be done. According to the report, the month of July 2015 alone saw several workers killed in incidents ranging from forklift collisions and falls, to trench collapses and electrocution. Meanwhile, a few months earlier, 18 workers at a major agricultural plant were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning.
To prevent such hazards, industry experts have repeatedly emphasized the importance of creating a comprehensive Health and Safety (H&S) plan. Not only does such a plan help protect employees from harm, but it also improves productivity, and minimizes downtime costs due to workplace injuries. In other words, an H&S plan just makes good business sense.
Many organizations have already developed their own H&S plans. Others may be just getting started. Whichever camp you fall into, here are some crucial questions you should ask yourself to make sure that your H&S plan delivers optimal business results:
01 When and How?
If you don’t have an H&S plan, it is crucial that you start creating one right away. If you already have one, start improving it.
The important part is “how” to create the plan. Use a structure and tone that is similar to and consistent with other organizational documents. This will make it easier for users to adopt the H&S plan.
02 Which Templates to Use?
Everyone wants to create a perfect plan. However, don’t waste time creating templates from scratch. There are many proven templates which are readily available publicly. Simply pick one that best fits your company’s needs. But remember to personalize it to make sure it fits in well with your H&S program.
03 What to Priortize?
The scope of an H&S plan is often so large that it’s difficult to know where to start. The key is to prioritize your plan’s to-do list based on risk assessments. Target the plan to the highest-risk areas first, and then implement the appropriate controls. Risks that have a high impact and high probability of causing health and safety incidents would probably need to be addressed first. You might also want to look at risks that impact the most number of people in the workplace, and address them immediately. Whatever your approach, make sure to have a well-prioritized action strategy that helps you move forward with your H&S plan quickly.
04 How Comprehensive Should the Plan Be?
An H&S plan typically includes sections on material handling, confined spaces, fall protection, ladders and scaffolding, welding, hazard analysis, and hazard communication. However, the plan can vary from one industry to the other depending on the associated risks. Create a plan that is specific to your company’s specific industry and operations, and enables each task to be executed safely.
05 In What Ways Can Technology Help?
Technology can play an important role in the creation and execution of any H&S plan. Choose a software system that not only serves your current needs but is capable of meeting your future requirements.
Companies across industries are increasingly adopting platform-based technologies that can integrate multiple health and safety management processes such as safety observations, incident management, job hazard analysis, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) management, health and safety audits, employee medical records management, and many others – all in one, common system.
Platform-based technologies can also help map health and safety risks, regulations, policies, controls, compliance obligations, business units, and processes in a tightly-knit information model for increased transparency and accountability.
Technologies which provide risk intelligence around health and safety can enable stakeholders to strengthen decision-making, proactively detect and mitigate risks, and reduce injuries, fatalities, or other health and safety incidents.
Enforce the H&S plan in such a way that any instance of non-compliance leads to disciplinary action. Also, make sure that you review and edit the H&S plan at regular intervals by talking to employees to understand the challenges of compliance, as well as changes in health and safety hazards. Then incorporate these updates in your H&S plan, and ensure that they are effectively communicated across the organization. When you have a well-thought out, well-planned, and regularly updated H&S plan, you are better positioned to protect your employees, as well as your business profitability and reputation.