How to reduce accidents in the workplace

How to reduce accidents in the workplace

Of all the crises that managers must deal with within the workplace, accidents and medical emergencies are by far the most common. Many accidents are due to worker error or dangerous procedures. However, many other emergencies are unavoidable.

In 1993, three professors studied 15 years of OSHA data to determine the most common causes of job-related injuries and fatalities: Robert F. Sherer, James D. Brodzinski and Elaine A. Crable, “The Human Factor,” HRMagazine, April 1993. The most significant factor in injuries were employee errors, followed by equipment insufficiencies and procedure insufficiencies. The professors suggested that all three of these factors could be addressed with better training, and outlined the following steps to help prevent accidents:

  • Identify and eliminate high-risk activities
  • Design jobs with current and anticipated workers in mind
  • Tailor safety-training programs to your employees
  • Empower employees to engage in accident prevention and job design
  • Treat accidents as performance errors
  • Establish behavior-based safety management programs
  • Train supervisors in confrontation-management skills
  • Change mundane routines
  • Empower employees to be responsible for their equipment
  • Establish an ergonomic approach to workplace design
  • Develop training programs based on behavior modeling
  • Develop programs to eliminate workplace illiteracy
  • Establish multilingual training programs

Once prevention measures are in place, managers should determine what their policy is for dealing with accidents and medical emergencies. Once managers create a policy, they should review it with legal counsel and their insurance company.

To help prevent accidents, a safety program should have the following elements:

  • Top management support and involvement
  • Job-specific pre-employment physicals for certain job classes
  • A written policy statement of the company’s commitment to safety and what the company expects of its employees, given to all employees
  • A safety committee with the power to enforce compliance with safety rules
  • Input from line employees on safety matters
  • Regular safety inspections of the workplace
  • Realistic goals for accident reduction, with progress, closely monitored and reductions rewarded
  • Supervisor-level accountability for accident reduction
  • A modified-duty program to return injured employees to work sooner
  • Signs, contests, rewards and health fairs to create a heightened sense of safety awareness among company personnel
  • Training, retraining and more retraining

OSHA requires that first aid be available to workers at all times, either by having someone trained in first aid on each shift or by being within seven minutes of a hospital. Part of an accident policy should address how the operation will ensure that someone trained in first aid is working each shift. This person should know what to do in emergency situations and also know what NOT to do because some actions could increase an operation’s liability.

Managers should make sure that an accurate record is kept of each accident and medical emergency. A member of management should obtain statements from any witnesses and carefully examine the accident site. If a slip or fall was involved, the manager should ask what type of shoes the victim was wearing, whether the person had any physical disabilities, what the weather was and what the lighting was like. All of this information should be recorded in an incident report. This report can help an operation defend itself against a liability suit in court.

Managers should make

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