The Value of Advancing Workplace Safety and Health
Workplace safety and health is imperative to building successful businesses, prosperous communities and sustainable economies.
- By Carly Engels Johnston
- Sep 01, 2021
Providing a safe workplace should be an important goal for all employers. While this can entail significant investments, the value of advancing workplace safety and health is well worth it. A strong workplace culture of safety and health can enhance product quality and business reputation. It can also help prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, fatalities and improve micro- and macro-economic indicators.
Safety and operational effectiveness do not have to be competing priorities. In fact, research indicates that establishing a safe and healthy work environment doesn’t preclude economic performance and other operational outcomes.
Advancing Workplace Safety Can Help Promote Businesses and the World
Workplace safety and health is imperative to not only help protect workers, but also to help build successful businesses, prosperous communities and sustainable economies. There are demonstrable benefits to a workplace safety climate and culture not just for the individual worker and communities, but also for businesses and the economy indicating that a sustainable workforce can contribute to success for companies and their customers. This commitment to the investment in safety and health of the workforce has appreciable benefits for workers, communities, businesses and economies.
Advanced safety and health practices build stronger, more sustainable economies and support sustainable development. Promoting workers’ safety and health has many socioeconomic benefits, and positive safety culture is associated with organizational performance measures directly related to sustainable development.
Here are some actions that employers can take to help advance organizational workplace safety and health:
*Begin by assessing the safety and health climate and culture at all levels of the organization
*Identify actionable areas to enhance the status quo
*Build a business case using data to demonstrate the return on investment in safety and health to influence support for implementation of new program and policies
*Consider implementing International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards 45001 and 9001
Let’s break down each of these a little bit more.
Safety Culture. It can help to conduct an audit of all current safety practices and see where there are opportunities for improvement. Is all the signage up to date? Are there gaps in training that need to be addressed? Is it time to update standards of procedures?
Risk and Hazard Assessments. When looking at the status quo, are all risk and hazard assessments current and do any changes need to be made based on the findings? Do employees have the proper PPE, know how to use it correctly and are there checks being conducted to make sure it is being used when it should be? Are there any other precautions that can be taken to create a safer environment?
Building a Business Case for Safety Improvement. Sometimes new measures require investment, whether it be switching types of PPE, implementing a new safety system or overhauling current equipment. Whether you are looking to do one or all of these, documenting the potential outcomes and benefits is crucial to help effecting change.
Adopting ISO Standards. What is ISO 45001? This standard sets the minimum standard of practice to protect employees worldwide. ISO 45001 is regarded as the world’s first International Standard for occupational health and safety (OH&S) that helps provide a framework to increase safety, reduce workplace risks and enhance health and well-being at work, enabling an organization to proactively improve its OH&S performance. ISO 45001 adopts a risk-based approach that ensures it is effective and undergoes continual improvement to meet an organization’s ever-changing context.
ISO 45001 is applicable to all organizations, regardless of size, industry or type of business. It is designed to be integrated into an organization’s existing management processes and follows the same high-level structure as other ISO management system standards, such as ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management).
ISO 9001 is a standard that sets out the criteria for a quality management system and is the only standard in the family that can be certified to (although, this is not a requirement). It can be used by any organization, large or small, regardless of its field of activity.
This standard is based on a number of quality management principles including customer focus, leadership, engagement of people, process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making and relationship management. Using ISO 9001 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good-quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.
The theme for week four during the 25th anniversary of National Safety Month this year was “Advance Your Safety Journey.” Just like the National Safety Council, it is important to keep in mind that safety is all about continuous improvement. This includes looking at how to enhance safety within your company from every angle. Whether organizationally or individually, seek out help and trusted guidance for your path forward.
Moreover, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment practices and the nature of work will continue to be felt for generations. New estimates confirm that labor markets around the world were affected by the pandemic on historically unprecedented scales.
Globalization, use of technology and the reopening of workplaces present new challenges and opportunities for workplace safety and health. Therefore, advancing workplace safety and health culture is an important global priority in the pursuit of building a sustainable workforce in alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.