Putting Safety First: Proven Strategies for Every Workplace 

In 2009, more than 4,300 workplace fatalities and nearly one million workplace injuries or illnesses involving missed work days occurred. These numbers are improving, but even one accident is one too many.

To help mitigate workplace incidents, it pays to have the right plan in place—one that starts with the hiring process, and includes training and recognition programs, as well as mechanisms for measuring performance.

Here are some strategies for fostering workplace safety.


Hire the right people. Look for candidates who understand safety’s importance. Ask all job candidates what safety means to them, not just in the workplace, but also in their personal lives. If a business relies on drivers, forklift operators, warehouse personnel, sales representatives, or dockworkers, safety must be a core value for these individuals.

Do not rush the hiring process because operations are understaffed. Hiring workers quickly and assuming you can train them after business slows is a huge mistake. It implies to the employee that the company does not practice what it preaches, and that production is more important than safety.

Ensure training programs are effective. Managers must ensure training programs are working by measuring progress, checking for mistakes, and investigating employee errors so corrective action can be taken. Communication among training managers, employees, and upper management helps keep everyone informed about workers’ safety performance and training programs’ effectiveness.

Equip employees with the necessary tools. Provide not only proper safety equipment, but also adequate knowledge. Investing in annually re-testing and certifying employees lets them know safety is important. Making these types of investments pays dividends for the company in the long run.

Enforce guidelines and procedures. Employees must know that shortcuts are not acceptable. While they might see a short-lived gain for making such a decision, ultimately it will cost both them and the company.

Give employees a voice. An open-door communication policy is key to a safe workplace. Workers must have the authority to speak up if they see a policy or procedure that can be improved. Employees often have the best ideas for improvement. After all, they’re the ones in the trenches. For instance, at Saia, a driver developed a new stretching and warm-up routine. As other employees adopted the routine, injuries decreased, which validated the routine’s significance and attracted management’s attention. The driver’s idea is now being turned into a company-wide program.

Reward safe performance. While most companies offer annual safety awards, catching employees doing the right thing and thanking them for it every day, especially in front of their peers, is one of the best ways to recognize personnel.

Help injured employees get back to work. Measuring lost-time injuries and developing ways for employees to perform transitional work reduces the time it takes workers to return to their customary role.

A safe workplace affects every employee, and creates a happy, productive workforce. That is something no one can place a price on.

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