Four Steps to a Safer Workplace

by Renee Tavares

3 min read

Some may remember the graphic WSIB prevent-it commercial campaign which showed various workplace “accidents” resulting in the serious or fatal injury of a worker.  All of the incidents depicted in the commercials could have been prevented if employees and employers avoided negligence.

According to the Institute for Work & Health, small businesses employees have a higher risk of workplace injury than those at larger firms. As a small business owner, it is up to you to ensure you and your employees take the proper precautions for a safe work environment.

How can you make your workplace safer? Here are four steps to take:

1) Elect a representative or create committee for health and safety

The law requires that employers with more than five employees have a Health and Safety Representative.  Workplaces with more than 20 employees must have a Health and Safety Committee. This committee must have at least one worker member and one management member that have received training in health and safety law to become certified.

2) Keep a well-maintained workplace

To maintain a safe workplace, it helps to create a formal health and safety system. First, the health and safety representative or committee should be tasked with working with management to identify hazards and create plans to control the hazard. To facilitate this process, review records of past incidents that resulted in injury and create processes to mitigate or eliminate these risks.

The representative/committee should also work with management to perform regular inspections of the workplace.  The Canada Labour Code indicates this should happen at least once a month – in whole or in part.

3) Provide information & training to employees

There are many health and safety resources you can provide to employees. You can dedicate a bulletin board to information regarding health and safety that includes things like health and safety legislation in your jurisdiction, Workplace Hazardous Information System (WHMIS), members of the Health and Safety Committee, and other explanatory information.

To improve health and safety in the workplace, you must provide health and safety awareness training to employees. Provincial governments often provide e-learning modules and resources online to help train employees. Other training you should provide includes First Aid, WHMIS, personal protective equipment use, and general equipment use.

In addition to training, provide instructions for employees to follow in case of emergencies. These steps can decrease the chance of workplace injury.

5) Protect your company

Once you’ve implemented training and other safety procedures, be sure to document everything. According to the Workplace Safety & Prevention Services, if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen in the eyes of the law. Therefore, employers should always keep records of all safety training; inspections of equipment and personal protective equipment; non-compliance with policies and what was done about it; and injuries and what was done to prevent recurrence.

Furthermore, employers have to report incidents to the relevant organizations. Depending on the incident, some injuries need to be reported to the Ministry of Labour and/or employer’s insurance company.

For a small business, Workplace Health and Safety compliance is sometimes overlooked for what owners think are more pertinent issues. The truth is health and safety is extremely important, even for a small business.

Why bother to make your workplace safer? Here are 3 reasons:

1) It’s the law

In Canada, it is the employer’s responsibility to stay compliant with the regulations and standards regarding Workplace Health and Safety. In fact, there is occupational health and safety legislation for each province and territory that outlines this information and provides additional toolkits and resources to help business owners.

2) Employee morale

When employees see that their company values their safety, it improves the motivation, productivity, and performance.

3) Save money in the long run

It may seem easier and cheaper to ignore health and safety but in reality workplace injuries and fatalities can cause major disruptions for a small business.  By becoming compliant with Workplace Health and Safety regulations, small business owners can avoid potential losses of revenue and lawsuits caused by workplace injuries and fatalities.

Workplace accidents are almost always preventable. It is up to you, as employees and small business owners, to ensure that health and safety procedures are implemented to make our workplaces safer.

Photo Copyright: Ekaterina_Minaeva

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