Workplace safety is a concept that needs to be reinforced by every department within a larger organization. When everyone is working together to create the safest possible environment and working conditions, it increases production and improves employee morale. Thankfully, Human Resources (HR) departments have a unique vantage point within any organization. HR acts as the professional bridge between employees and the information they need to do their jobs effectively.
Accidents and safety violations come with stiff personal and financial penalties. Enough violations can shut a company down permanently, and may result in lawsuits or allegations of negligence. Organizations need to take every opportunity to teach, improve, and monitor anything related to workplace safety to avoid becoming a professional pariah.
The HR department is responsible for more than just keeping employee records. This department has inside knowledge of everything that goes on at a company, and benefits everyone to communicate their knowledge to employees.
When it comes to safety, HR has the ability to monitor compliance, follow up on employee concerns, and design training programs that keep everyone up-to-date on the latest procedures. It also has an active role in supporting the best safety practices in a number of ways.
1. Sharing their wealth of information
As we mentioned above, the HR department has a bird’s eye view of everything that goes on within an organization. HR employees keep careful records of employee performance and can track safety compliance across the board. These insights can expose weak points and areas where current procedures just aren’t working.
While the HR department isn’t required to know the details of every piece of machinery or ongoing project, it will have a cursory understanding of what’s necessary to maintain and improve workplace safety. This umbrella of procedural comprehension allows it to pass knowledge on to other departments that could benefit from the insight. In order to develop an effective workplace safety program, HR departments require the following:
Support from management
A company-wide method of communication
Active employee participation
A complete risk-management analysis
Methods and procedures for reducing the risks of unsafe conditions, and managing emergencies
Tools and materials for creating and implementing training programs
2. Understanding and implementing an open door policy
Creating a safe and ethical work environment means encouraging open and honest discussion about what goes on during the workday. When employees feel intimidated or undervalued, they’re less likely to speak up. This can result in serious safety infractions going unnoticed until something bad happens.
HR departments can—and should—create a safe place for employees to bring their concerns, and acts as a liaison between different departments within the organization. This takes the pressure off of employees who genuinely believe that certain things need addressed—and these employees are often your first line of defense against potential safety hazards. The HR department can also direct employees to their immediate supervisors to discuss their concerns, and helps to facilitate a company-wide open door policy.
When an open door policy works, it encourages every employee to feel comfortable speaking to any superior. In smaller companies, the HR department might have a person responsible for employee relations who handles all of the open door communications. As each new person is hired on, they should be made aware of who to go to when they have a problem that can’t be solved within their peer group. If an employee is still skittish about speaking to someone directly, an anonymous reporting channel can bridge the gap.
3. Creating anonymous channels for incident reporting
One of the most important skills necessary to create a safe work environment is communication. Many of us have worked in places where it feels like everyone is constantly covering for everyone else, and no one is being honest about incidents. Unfortunately, this situation happens more than it should, and people fear repercussions from peers for reporting anything.
When an employee doesn’t report a workplace injury or other incident that could pose a safety risk, it perpetuates the problem. From there, it’s only a matter of time before something much worse happens.
Your HR department has the power to open anonymous reporting channels so that employees can safely report incidents. Anonymous reporting can be done via phone or using an online program. It doesn’t ask the employee for any personal information and protects their identity while giving them a platform for their concerns. Having an anonymous reporting “hotline” is an effective way to get the important information without all of the hemming and hawing that can come with nerves.
4. Coordinating safety training events
As the main hub for employee communication, the HR department is often responsible for designing and coordinating training events. They can work with other departments to choose topics, and to understand the procedures that need to be incorporated into the presentation. This can encompass everything from basic first aid to meetings detailing areas that need improvement. To develop appropriate training materials, they’ll need the latest risk assessments and analyses.
After identifying potential threats to safety, the HR department will need to meet with the safety coordinator, worksite managers, and other department leads to come up with a compliant curriculum. This can be translated into a multimedia or interactive presentation and shared with employees.
Finding the best way to communicate and track safety data organization-wide is essential to the success of any training events. Just like any large company, nothing will function correctly when one department doesn’t know what the other is doing. A digital safety management system can keep everyone connected and improve incident reporting accuracy.
5. Fostering a safety culture of cooperation and communication
Every employee at an organization will have contact with the HR department at some point in their career. This puts HR personnel in the perfect position to influence company culture and encourage an atmosphere of transparency, equality, and openness. When it comes to safety in the workplace, being on the same page can save your company money, promote productivity, and prevent dangerous situations well ahead of time. This is one goal where employees, supervisors, and even executive staff need to present a united front.
Want to learn more about how SafetyTek can help you improve your workplace safety? Get in touch today!