Safe + Sound Week: Build an Effective Safety Program

Every August, OSHA launches its annual Safe + Sound Week to celebrate businesses that have successfully implemented occupational health and safety programs. The week-long event is dedicated to promoting hazard awareness, workplace safety innovation and employee wellness, and provides employers with a perfect opportunity to reflect on their achievements and identify additional areas for improvement. Organizations of all sizes are encouraged to participate by hosting safety events and hands-on activities that demonstrate their commitment to their workers’ long-term wellbeing.

Comprehensive and compassionate health and safety programs help employers in many ways, including:

  • Demonstrating corporate social responsibility and workplace safety goals
  • Engaging workers
  • Improving regulatory compliance
  • Increasing productivity and enhancing business operations
  • Preventing workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses
  • Reducing costs and potentially also workers’ compensation premiums

To help businesses prepare for Safe + Sound Week, let’s take a closer look at what makes a health and safety program successful.

3 Elements of Effective Health + Safety Programs

When it comes to building a successful health and safety program, OSHA identifies 3 core components that every employer should prioritize: management leadership, worker participation and finding and fixing workplace hazards. By incorporating these elements, businesses can ensure their policies and procedures are proactive, compassionate and in line with current best practices. Since open communication is also essential to combating on-the-job injuries and illnesses, it’s important for employers to focus on building productive relationships among business leaders, management teams and workers. To get an idea of how health and safety programs operate, let’s take a closer look at the specific elements that most often contribute to their success:

1. Management Leadership

One of the most important components of a successful health and safety program is the direct involvement of C-suite executives and high-level managers, as these professionals have the authority and expertise needed to allocate resources and guide policy improvements. When business leaders are actively engaged in reducing workplace accidents, it demonstrates a genuine commitment to employee well-being and communicates that each worker is a valuable part of their organization. Some of the ways top management can actively support health and safety programs include:

  • Creating policy statements and outlining workplace safety initiatives
  • Developing clear implementation and performance goals for new programs
  • Making health and safety part of their daily conversations and operational planning
  • Acknowledging worker contributions and achievements

2. Worker Participation

While top-level support is essential to building an effective health and safety program, it’s also important to emphasize the value of employee insight and engagement. Workers often have firsthand experience with the specific hazards their employers are trying to mitigate, which enables them to make informed recommendations for improving existing policies. Fostering a collaborative environment and open dialog can also encourage employees to think critically about accident prevention and contribute their ideas during the planning and revision phases. Additionally, direct worker involvement can help employers find actionable solutions to some of the toughest health and safety challenges, promote awareness and cultivate productive relationships. A successful safety program is one that makes employees feel invested and appreciated, which is why every worker must be able to share their insight without fear of retaliation. Here are some of the common ways employees actively participate in their companies’ safety committees and programs:

  • Assisting management with the development of accident prevention policies
  • Identifying opportunities for improving routine and non-routine safety processes
  • Performing weekly on-site inspections and incident investigations
  • Training employees and new hires on safe work practices

3. Finding and Fixing Hazards

In the past, many employers relied on a reactive approach to workplace safety that prioritized incident response and post-accident investigation. While this approach helps businesses improve their internal policies and procedures, it may leave them unprepared for major injuries that could significantly impact operational efficiencies. Modern health and safety programs place considerable emphasis on identifying and controlling workplace hazards through proactive and systematic processes. Rather than waiting for an accident, annual inspection or new piece of legislation, today’s safety-conscious employers focus on injury and illness prevention by making incremental improvements and regularly updating their training resources. The defining features of a systematic find-and-fix approach include:

  • Reviewing workplace hazards when new information is made available
  • Investigating on-the-job accidents to locate root causes and possible solutions
  • Conducting regular inspections to identify emerging risks to employee health and safety
  • Verifying the efficacy of existing programs and procedures

Developing a comprehensive and compassionate safety and health program can help employers of all sizes improve their operational performance, save money on workers’ comp premiums and remain competitive in their industry. But more importantly, these initiatives provide employees with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to produce their best work and advocate for their personal well-being.

For additional information and to get started with downloadable links for OSHA’s Safe + Sound week, click here. For additional resources, visit our safety section.