7 Ways to Increase Workplace Safety

By: Kevin Gardner
​Every workplace poses a certain amount of risk, but much of the risk can be mitigated by implementing some simple workplace safety measures.
1. Keep Employees Relaxed and Rested
Overworked and stressed-out employees present a safety risk to your organization. Studies show that fatigue leads to greater risk for accidents. Implement automation to reduce employee workloads, such as help desk software and other automated customer interfaces. Be sure your employees are dealing with manageable workloads and feel supported in their jobs. Consider offering incentives to employees who participate in regular exercise programs, which can help reduce stress levels and lead to more alert and attentive workers. If space allows, create quiet areas where employees can go to catch a quick nap during the workday or maybe even meditate. These restful activities can help employees reduce sleep deficits and, therefore, pose less risk for the company.
2. Use the Right Tools
Be sure everyone has the right tools to do their jobs safely, and the knowledge of how to use them. Training is essential to workplace safety. The right tool used in the wrong way may result in costly accidents that not only injure employees but also damage company property and sometimes cause a loss of profit. Signage can also help to ensure that everyone is using tools properly and wearing protective wear when necessary.
3. Consult with Experts
You may even want to consult with an occupational therapist to discover ways to improve ergonomics and avoid injuries in the workplace. Other consultants can provide comprehensive workplace safety assessments that will identify hazards in the physical space and suggest measures for removing or greatly reducing those risks in your company.
4. Keep It Clean
Cleanliness will go a long way in keeping the workplace free of occupational hazards. A number of avoidable workplace accidents occur because of cluttered spaces, power cords placed in ways that create tripping hazards, and spills and other hazards that were not cleaned up immediately. Most customers also appreciate seeing a clean and safe working environment because it reflects to them high standards they hope will trickle over into the products and services they receive from a company.
5. Prioritize Safety
Management must model safety to employees. Recognize employees for taking measures to ensure their safety and the safety of others as they complete their work. Employees who are productive are not always safe. Encouraging productivity at the expense of safety may end up costing you more in the end. Make sure your employees realize that safety is a priority for you and that their well-being is important to you over and above the numbers they churn out. An employee who works through a lunch break to finish a job may seem like a hero but the lack of nourishment, stress, and most likely fatigue that is induced by such efforts is more of a risk than an asset to the company.
6. Have a Unified Safety Plan
Create a safety plan that everyone in the company has access to. Consider having it available both through an online employee portal and as a hard copy document that is given when workers are hired by the company. You may want to make sure employees have looked over the safety plan and understand key components by requiring them to successfully complete a short follow-up test. Whenever updates are made to the safety plan, be sure to email all employees with a link to the updated information.
7. Remove Biological Hazards
Discourage employees from coming to work sick by providing ample sick leave and maybe even providing work-from-home options for sick employees who want to continue working. Communicable diseases are obvious biological hazards, but other more hidden hazards include mold, air quality, and pests. Be sure to have your facilities inspected at least annually to ensure these hazards are not present in the workplace.

While we may typically think of industrial and construction sectors when it comes to hazardous workplaces, safety should be a consideration in any organization. Not only will attention to safety show employees that their well-being is important to their employer, it will also help companies to avoid costly accidents.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.