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Six Steps To A Safer Workplace


by Tatiana Castano, Director of Training and Compliance at USA Mobile Drug Testing

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When companies maintain a safe work environment, everybody wins. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 3 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2013.

When employees are hurt at work the employer bears the cost of workers compensation, and possibly worker replacement. The employee, meanwhile, suffers a painful injury that may require time off from work.

Here are six tips for improving safety in the workplace:

Safety rules.

Safety rules will differ from company to company, depending on the type of work employees conduct.

Construction companies, for example, should make sure every employee understands they must use safety equipment such as hard hats, safety glasses and harnesses. Safety rules for an office setting, however, would promote proper ergonomics and maintaining a clutter-free workspace.

All employers should inform new employees about safety guidelines, and offer existing employees continuing safety education. Identify the chain of command so employees know who to approach with safety concerns and to whom they must report accidents.

Break policies.

Craft a policy that encourages workers to take regular breaks, and make workers aware of all scheduled break times.

A Right Management and LinkedIn study showed less than half of workers surveyed take a lunch break away from their desks. Research suggests taking even several short breaks throughout the day can improve productivity. A study conducted at the University of Illinois revealed the brain grows tired after focusing on a task for a long period of time. The study showed workers who take breaks are markedly more efficient.

Reporting guidelines.

Employees must recognize the importance of reporting hazardous working conditions or practices immediately, and managers must understand how to proceed after receiving that information. The sooner management is made aware of dangerous situations, the sooner the company can take corrective action.

Fire plan.

OSHA reports that more than 200 fires break out in workplaces across the country each day, which led to 143 worker deaths in 2011.

Companies can reduce the chances of fire-related injuries or deaths by educating workers about where fire extinguishers are located throughout the building, and about the proper way to use them. Make sure the company has a fire plan that includes escape routes and highlights a designated meeting place outside the building.

First aid.

Offer workers should be trained on basic first aid, and make sure they know where first aid kits and eye wash stations are located.

Employers might also consider using an on-call nurse triage service. These services provide around-the-clock access to registered nurses who can issue immediate care advice for treating a workplace injury. This reduces the chances that an injury will be ignored or treated incorrectly, and helps injured employees return to work quickly and safely.

Drug and alcohol testing.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, companies that have implemented successful drug-free workplace programs have seen improvements in employee morale and productivity, fewer absences and accidents, and less downtime and employee turnover.

Enact a policy requiring preemployment drug testing to avoid hiring those who use illegal substances, and conduct random screenings to ensure employees are adhering to the drug-free workplace policies. Drug and alcohol testing should also take place following a workplace accident.

Bottom line.

Your employees will be happier and more productive in a safe workplace, and by following these steps, you and your employees can enjoy exactly that!


Tatiana Castano

Tatiana Castano is the Director of Training and Compliance at USA Mobile Drug Testing, where she develops and executes national training programs that enable USAMDT franchisees working with employers to keep drugs and alcohol out of the workplace. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.