Editor's note: Trish Ennis is senior risk control consultant for the Willis Risk Control & Claims Advocacy Practice. This blog originally ran on WillisWire.
You can’t eliminate human error. You can’t eliminate accidents. But you can implement some key strategies to improve workplace safety.
The value of pre-hire testing
One of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents is to make sure the right people are in the right jobs.
Pre-hire testing can help organizations gather useful data on human behavior characteristics that can indicate where problems may be more likely to arise. Integrity testing, range-of-motion testing and fit-for-duty testing can reveal potential mismatches between work capability and work responsibilities.
We all make mistakes, but people tend to make different kinds of mistakes. Assessing these tendencies before a hire is made may be the single most powerful loss prevention tool in the safety professional’s toolkit.
Risk assessment and safety indicators
Safety professionals often start out on the factory floor or some other hands-on place at work and bring to bear invaluable first-hand experience. While many like to keep their hardhats nearby, their role is increasingly one of data gathering and analytics. The goal is risk assessment, capturing safety exposures in quantitative terms. “What gets measured gets managed.” So goes the classic phrase attributed to business management legend Peter Drucker. Safety risk is no exception.
The basics of safety data are obvious: keeping track of the accidents, their causes and repercussions. But equally important are leading safety indicators, measures of an organization’s safety culture. Some of these indicators include:
- Percentage of safety-trained supervisors
- Participation in workplace safety training
- Timeliness of claim reporting
Every company talks the safety talk, but not all walk the safety walk. A thorough risk assessment is a crucial step in taking that walk.
Structuring a safety management program
So you have gathered your safety data, including your leading indicators. How do you get from the “gets measured” part to the “gets managed” part? You need to structure a safety management program. As in many broad organizational undertakings, some best practices in developing a safety program include:
- Getting top leadership buy-in and sponsorship
- Assembling an inclusive team that includes HR, line managers, an executive sponsor and people from the field or the front line
- Creating a written plan with measurable goals, specific tasks and assigned responsibilities
- Paying special attention to communications surrounding program implementation to help ensure that the messages for the workforce are coming in loud and clear
- Including follow-up steps, risk reassessment and program restructuring as part of the overall program
Toward a safer global workplace
Like virtually every aspect of business today, safety must be seen in a global context. Governments around the world have their own versions of the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which play a huge role in creating safety cultures and policies. Companies with employees in several countries are likely familiar already with the complex of safety rules they must comply with in each locale.
In a move that may simplify or at least help organize these efforts, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is developing global risk management standards that will address safety issues. As these standards roll out over the next few years, safety professionals will want to keep abreast of the project, incorporating it where applicable into their own safety programs.
In conversations with safety professionals around the world, we have found a keen interest in understanding human behavior and the role it plays in safety risks. They are asking questions about what motivates employees to work safely and how such a perspective can contribute to workplace best practices. And this brings us back to where we started – getting the right people in the right jobs in the first place.
Work with your risk adviser to make sure you are taking advantage of the latest key strategies in promoting workplace safety.