As any business owner knows, there are all sorts of safety devices and equipment available for virtually any job in every industry. Some are required by federal, state, and local employment regulations; others are optional, available to employers interested in making the most of workplace safety. So with the many options available today, what is the best safety device investment a company can make?
When it comes to the term "safety device," the images that most frequently spring to mind are those of hard hats, safety guards for machines or harnesses and tethers. The importance of these devices and equipment in improving workplace safety should not be underestimated. However, most of these devices are job or industry specific, so identifying a single one that would benefit every company isn't possible.
Regardless of the industry or job, when it comes to across-the-board safety for virtually all industries and jobs, the most effective safety device investments aren't in equipment made of plastics, metals, or polymers, and you won't find them at your local industrial supply wholesaler. That's because the best safety device for any company is a solid workforce made up of responsible, healthy employees, each of whom has been thoroughly trained in accordance with clearly outlined and thoughtfully developed workplace health and safety policies.
What steps can you take to create that solid, safe workforce? Investing in a little professional help from a workplace health and safety specialist can help you develop effective safety policies and procedures. Once those policies and procedures are developed, comprehensive safety training for managers and supervisors can help ensure that they are implemented and enforced effectively. Job-specific and engaging employee training can help make sure workers clearly understand and follow safety protocols.
How much difference can an investment in effective safety policies, procedures and training make? According to the CDC, a lot. The agency undertook a review of the literature on the effectiveness of these factors, particularly occupational health and safety training, that evaluated data from more than 80 studies. These researchers concluded that the data provided overwhelming evidence that these programs increased worker knowledge of job hazards and affected safer work practices and behaviors in a wide array of work sites, and that higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities were found in workplaces that did not offer these programs.
Another important step in building a solid, safe workforce is ensuring that you're hiring people who are well-equipped to handle the physical demands of their jobs. The most common types of workplace injuries are overuse injuries – sprains, strains and other musculoskeletal problems. These can be best minimized by a physical ability testing program that ensures that the employees you hire are well-matched to the jobs they're placed in, possessing the strength, agility, balance, and coordination necessary to perform the essential functions of the job safely and efficiently.
How much impact can a physical ability test program have on workplace safety? In a study done by the University of Illinois at Chicago, implementation of a pre employment physical abilities testing program resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of injuries, as well as a decrease in total costs and mean costs of injuries when they did occur.
The bottom line is that the best safety investment your company can make isn't a device at all, but an investment in people. Creating a culture of safety in a workplace staffed with fit, capable and well-trained employees is likely to do much more for everyday injury prevention than a truckload of the latest new safety gadgets.