It seems obvious that making your work environment a healthy and safe one will help make your employees happier, and your company more productive. All employers want to avoid the consequences of an unsafe and unhealthy environment, starting with injured workers, but having healthier and happier employees also includes minimising:
- frequent sick leave
- higher insurance premiums, and
- training needed to replace absent employees.
Whether you're in an office or running a manufacturing plant, there are steps you can take to create a better work setting. Here are five essentials to consider.
Ensure you have a solid programme in place
The first place to start is ensuring your company implements a proper workplace health and safety programme. Formally put it in writing, and lay it out within your company’s induction or orientation material. Be sure that you also draft a training programme that covers the use of equipment and shop machinery specific to your business. Even though equipment generally comes with its own safety material, it is crucial that your safety programme reflects the daily reality of working in your company (in other words, the safety material must function within the context of your business).
In the office, make sure employees are using ergonomically-designed equipment to avoid common problems, such as back and neck pain.
Let your employees provide their own input
Employee buy in (for your workplace HSE programme) is crucial if you want it to work. The best way to achieve this is to get them involved in the process of putting it together.
Here are possible ways they can contribute:
- Ask them to identify possible defects in equipment
- Let them contribute to tips on how to avoid injuries
- Spend time with them, noting possible issues specific to their role/environment. For example, in an office, encourage employees who sit for long periods to focus on their posture
- In a manufacturing setting, implement ‘safety blitzes’ – these are an effective way to systematically review safety regulations that concern the use of:
- other machinery.
Once employees have offered their input, create a reference manual. Also, once you have compiled the manual, encourage face-to-face meetings with employees that will allow a reciprocal exchange of information. You’ll ensure your message is heard and understood, while giving them the space to voice their opinions.
Here are some basic safety rules that you can apply to any business setting:
· Make sure everyone knows the company safety and security measures, fire procedures and escape routes.
· Create a buddy system in your workplace so colleagues have each other’s wellbeing top of mind.
· Have first aid kits on hand at all times.
· Be sure emergency telephone numbers are clearly displayed where everyone can see.
· Be ready for unanticipated emergencies, such as natural disasters.
· Make someone responsible for building security and employee health and safety.
· Install emergency phones in isolated areas, such as storage rooms.
· Be sure you have efficient (and sufficient) indoor and outdoor lighting.
Keep your plant or manufacturing shop safe
In most countries, employers are legally bound to maintain a healthy and safe work environment, especially when hazardous materials are involved. Common workplace hazards include:
- Cutting machinery that can trap or amputate limbs
- Forklift trucks that can cause crushing injuries
- Ovens that can cause burns
- Vibrating equipment that can cause muscle weakness and pain in fingers, hands and arms
- Equipment used in confined spaces that can cause hearing problems
If necessary, ask for help from external experts to ensure your facilities meet current safety standards.
Support healthy lifestyles for employees
Consider holding regular presentations on wellness, and subsidise gym memberships, physiotherapy treatments and other health services for your employees. You’re much better off investing in these kinds of programmes than spending money on employee sick leave!
Consider the cost of turnover
A recent survey indicates that 40 percent of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year. They cite the lack of skills training and development as the principal reason for moving on.
With just one less employee, your company’s productivity slips. Sales decline. Your current staff members are required to work more hours. Morale may suffer. To find a replacement, you spend time screening and interviewing applicants. Once you hire someone, you need to train that person. The cost of staff turnover adds up. Figures vary, but it can cost as much as US$2 500, depending on the position, to replace a frontline employee. That is a hefty price to pay for not training staff.
7 benefits of training
Benefit #1: Training helps your business run better.
Trained employees will be better equipped to handle customer inquiries, make a sale or use computer systems.
Benefit #2: Training is a recruiting tool.
Today's young workers want more than a salary at the end of the month. They are geared toward seeking employment that allows them to learn new skills. You are more likely to attract and keep good employees if you can offer development opportunities.
Benefit #3: Training promotes job satisfaction.
Nurturing employees to develop more rounded skill sets will help them contribute to the company. The more engaged and involved they are in working for your success, the better your rewards.
Benefit #4: Training is a retention tool, instilling loyalty and commitment from good workers.
Staff looking for the next challenge will be more likely to stay if you offer ways for them to learn and grow while at your company. Don't give them a reason to move on by letting them stagnate once they've mastered initial tasks.
Benefit #5: Training adds flexibility and efficiency.
You can cross-train employees to be capable in more than one aspect of the business. Teach them to be competent in sales, customer service, administration and operations. This will help keep them interested and will be enormously helpful to you when setting schedules or filling in for absences. Cross-training also fosters team spirit, as employees appreciate the challenges faced by their co-workers.
Benefit #6: Training is essential for knowledge transfer.
It's very important to share knowledge among your staff. If only one person has special skills, you'll have a tough time recouping their knowledge if they suddenly leave the company. Spread knowledge around – it's like diversifying your investments.
Benefit #7: Training gives contract workers a reason to return.
Let temporary employees know there are more ways for them to contribute. Instead of hiring someone new, offer them a chance to learn new skills and benefit from their experience.