Effective Safety Plans Part 2: Who Needs a Safety Plan and Why

February 1, 2024 • Previsor

A safety plan is essential for any business owner who directs employees in the course of daily operations. There are safety risks present in every industry. Whether your employees use tools or equipment, operate company vehicles, or deal with the public, it’s essential to outline safety expectations. A safety plan goes a long way in preventing injuries and reducing on-the-job incidents.

On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we sit down with Mark Woodward, Senior Safety and Risk Trainer at MEM. In part one of this episode, we discussed how to put together an effective safety plan, even with limited resources, and its limitations.

First, we’ll talk about the purpose of a safety plan. Then, we’ll discuss how they protect small businesses, and how to prioritize the right safety measures. Finally, we’ll share why it’s important to educate employees on safety plans.

Listen to this episode on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below

What is the purpose of a safety plan?

The purpose of a safety plan is to reduce the frequency and severity of workplace injuries and incidents. It clearly outlines safety expectations for employees. It includes written safety rules and addresses common injury types. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidance on which types of businesses need safety plans. However, at MEM, safety professionals take a broader approach.

“We say that if you are an employer, and you have employees, you should probably talk about safety more often than not,” Woodward explained. ” Because if an injury were to occur, that’s going to be very costly for your business.” OSHA compliance is a byproduct of a well-executed safety plan.

Safety rules vs. safety plans

In a workplace, safety rules and safety plans each serve a different purpose. Safety rules need to be written down and reviewed regularly. They should focus on the leading cause of employee injury and death in that industry.

A safety plan is more comprehensive. It goes by other names. For example, it is also referred to as an injury prevention plan or safety program. It includes those written safety rules, along with other resources, such as guidance on how to respond to workplace injuries or enforce corrective action.

Protecting small businesses

Safety plans are essential for small businesses. Their teams tend to be smaller, and business owners rely on them to help keep the company running and income flowing.

A workplace incident can not only increase a company’s experience modification factor (e-mod), but premium costs as well. In addition, the team is now reduced, limiting productivity and putting pressure on the remaining members. Even a minor injury, like a back strain or ankle sprain, can have a major impact. A safety plan goes a long way in preventing this. Woodward recommends that small businesses cover some essential basics. For instance:

Prioritizing the right safety measures

For Woodward, it’s important to focus on implementing safety measures that prevent injuries and fatalities. “I’m going to focus first on what is most likely to get employees hurt, get them killed, draw in unnecessary OSHA scrutiny and I’m going to deal with those,” he explained. Doing this goes a long way in helping a business reach safety compliance. Some employers take a more difficult route, experiencing fines and citations issued by OSHA for safety violations. However, Woodward points out that even these experiences are important. 

The iceberg effect

We have a thing that we talk about at MEM called the iceberg effect,” Woodward shared. “For every dollar that you spend in a direct cost after an incident, you’re going to spend four to ten dollars in soft costs.” These soft costs are hard to predict, and even harder to control. “Those are costs that you can’t calculate that are still hurting your company.”

Educate employees on safety plans

A safety plan is only effective when people know about it. Woodward highlights that employees need to be educated on safety rules.

“What I would recommend all businesses do is address key injury types,” Woodward said. For example, slips and falls, and strains and sprains. It’s also vital to address the top ways people are killed on the job. Those hazards include falls from heights, motor vehicle crashes, and workplace violence. Employers should include more industry-specific risks. For example, educating construction employees on electrocution, getting caught in or struck by things on the job. 

Keep it simple

Employers should talk about them often, have employees sign written copies, and post the rules around the workplace. “Unfortunately, most adults across the United States read at a seventh- or eighth-grade level,” he said. This means safety information shouldn’t be complicated to understand. “I do recommend that your safety rules be simple in nature, direct in their statements, and let’s keep it simple because the reading comprehension level out there may not be the greatest.”

Further, employers need to enforce safety rules. Without enforcement, workplace incidents can still slip through the cracks. Corrective action is intimidating for some employers. But the ultimate goal is to prevent workplace injuries.

Safety plans: Preventing the cost of an incident

“The main thing I want business owners to understand is how difficult it would be to have to replace one of your top employees,” Woodward shared. Whether it’s from simple or more serious injury, what impact would a missing employees have on your business? “Look at your people and ask yourself, ‘My goodness, what would happen if I actually lost one, for six to eight weeks, or maybe even permanently?'”

Employers have a responsibility to keep employees safe. A safety plan addresses industry hazards and common ways employees are injured or killed. Woodward recommends that employers:

  • Stay informed. How much are you paying in insurance premiums? What is your current e-mod? Knowing the answers to these questions can help a business owner better understand the financial impact of an incident.
  • Simplify safety plans. A truly effective safety plan isn’t kept in a large three-ring binder that no one ever uses. It addresses the top injury and death risks in a workplace. Keep safety guidelines simple, straightforward, and accessible.
  • Share safety plans often. Safety plans shouldn’t be shared just once a year. Keep employees up-to-date by holding regular safety meetings and maintaining written safety rules.
February 1, 2024
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