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Your safety program checklist

Preventing workplace injuries requires a comprehensive approach to safety that involves the entire organization. But how do we know we are effectively using all the tools at our disposal? How do we assure the health and safety of our employees in the midst of conflicting priorities and limited resources? Are we doing everything we can to reduce OSHA recordables? Here is a checklist to get you started:

1. Are You Leveraging Workers' Task-Level Knowledge?
Employee commitment is the foundation of good safety performance. But to get people engaged, you need to show that we really care. One way to do this is to involve the people who are doing the work every day. Employees at the jobsite have a wealth of hands-on knowledge and are usually keyed into what needs to be done to ensure safety. By asking questions and encouraging workers to speak up, leaders not only engage employees in safety, they also motivate them to take action when they see a risk or the potential for one.

2. Are You Supporting Injury Reporting?
Understanding the factors that discourage injury reporting can help leaders build a culture that supports open communication, preventative measures, and care for afflicted individuals. Employees comfortable with reporting injuries (and near misses) provide organizations with valuable information to combat exposures and safeguard lives. One study estimated that 59% of workers believed their injuries were too minor to report. Others don't report injuries because they prefer to use personal or other forms of insurance to cover medical costs. When workers forego reporting injuries, the company loses valuable information it needs to eliminate hazards, mitigate exposures, and save lives.

3. Are You Capturing Observation Data on the Ground?
Preventing workplace injuries means getting actionable information on the risks people are actually facing. Employees trained in exposure recognition and response are able to provide near real-time assessments based on a critical set of behaviors. Instead of relying on an infrequent safety inspection to detect conditions needing correction, all employees could be on the lookout every day. Providing actionable data is a meaningful way workers can contribute to their work environment and safeguard their lives. Meaningful involvement is one of the pillars of effective employee engagement. When people know their contributions make a difference, they're more committed to making them. Involving workers in daily assessments is an efficient way to ensure successful hazard detection and removal.

4. Are You Engaging Supervisors in Safety Leadership?
No position is more critical to assuring worker safety then the supervisor or frontline leader. Supervisors drive management's safety vision. They exhibit the company's attitude toward safety that cascades across the workforce. When supervisors understand the concepts of potential and exposure and how behavior relates to equipment, conditions, and systems in injury causation, they influence workers to do the right thing all the time. Supervisors who lead safety effectively are one of the most important elements of workplace injury prevention.

5. Is Your Workforce Able to Adapt to Risks?
A review of incidents across organizations reveals that employees often do not recognize changes in exposure or fail to respond to developments that might lead to an incident. In many industrial workplaces it is common to find that workers have become desensitized to the subtle changes in exposure they work with every day. At work and at home, tasks and activities become so routine and familiar that workers do not notice when things change. When employees become comfortable with risks, they miss changes in exposure that can lead to serious injuries or worse. Individual exposure detection and response is critical to a comprehensive approach to safety. Training employees to understand risk and know how to adapt to it is key to closing the gap.

6. Are Leaders Supporting Safe Behavior with Feedback?
An effective feedback system provides organizations with the means to influence behavior, redirect performance, build understanding of organizational objectives, and demonstrate leadership. Good feedback can improve teamwork, motivate discretionary effort, and retain talent. To build a feedback-rich culture, safety communication needs to be a daily activity. Providing input only when there is exceptional performance is not enough. Encouraging people for average (yet desirable) practices and behaviors will motivate the types of results leaders are looking for.

7. Are You Focused on Exposure?
Consistent safety improvement requires knowing what is happening to exposure in a quantifiable way. This information is especially important for the small subset of exposure that are a high risk for life-altering injury. Are you targeting serious injury and fatality exposures? Do you have a set of clearly defined behaviors that people need to understand to work safely? Targeting the actual exposure present in the work and tailoring solutions to reduce them is how leaders get ahead of injuries and prevent them from occurring.

In Closing
There isn't a one-shot solution to reducing workplace injuries. Protecting employees takes a concerted effort, driven from the top and supported by people at all levels. Workplace safety isn't the job of just a few; it is the responsibility of the entire organization, with everyone—from the frontline to the boardroom—committed to controlling risks for themselves and others. Supported by a strategic planning and strong change management principles, DEKRA Insight's integrated approach to safety has reduced workplace exposures and lowered recordables at thousands of locations around the world.

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