How to Develop Realistic Safety Goals
Why set safety goals? A study from 2011 showed that Ohio small businesses were able to lower workers’ compensation claims by more than 50% and cost per claim 80% after adopting OSHA’s recommended safety practices.
Setting realistic safety goals for a workplace establishes concrete targets for effective safety programs. OSHA’s recommended practices advise taking a proactive approach instead of reacting only after a workplace injury, inspection, or new law. Identify and fix hazards before they cause an incident. This will promote a positive work environment and avoid the costs of worker illness and injury. But how do you get started?
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Steps to Safety
While there are hazards common to all general industry and construction companies, each workplace is different. The size, location, workforce, tools, and materials may vary and affect the types of hazards present and the possible methods to mitigate them. Gather as much information as possible about current practices and conditions.
Supervisors and employees are great resources for identifying what’s working and what isn’t. Analyze incident and injury reports to identify problems, acute hazards, and failures of the program. The first step in developing safety goals is to identify the specific hazards that employees have to deal with on the job. Then prioritize: what is most important and what is possible.
Management from all levels and departments need to be visibly involved in the stages of safety goal development; they provide the necessary vision, resources, and reinforcement.
Management needs to plan and coordinate, budget time and funds, delegate tasks, and create ways to communicate about safety issues without fear of reprisals. Incident and hazard reporting should be a major element of safety goal development and implementation. Take advantage of all the resources OSHA has to offer.
There are consultation services, cooperative programs, small business resources, guidelines, and publications available with the sole purpose of helping you create a safer workplace. For example, OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program is free, confidential, and separate from enforcement. Consultants will help identify hazards and provide advice.
Get employees involved in the process at multiple points. This is effective for several reasons. Employees are most affected and have the most to lose. They are dealing with hazards every day and can provide valuable first-hand feedback. Getting employees involved gives them ownership of workplace safety, and they will likely be more committed to safety training and applying safe practices.
Ensure employees have the time and resources to participate in safety initiatives. Provide a safe, open environment for workers to report safety and health concerns. It’s also crucial to give employees the safety information they need to protect themselves and maintain safe workplaces.
Set Meaningful, Realistic Goals
Objectives are about results: What do you want to achieve, when, and how much? These goals should be measurable and support the overall purpose of implementing a successful safety program. OSHA recommends descriptive goals, such as developing and implementing a safety program that controls hazards. Other possible safety goals may include:
- Active participation in safety committees
- Complete job safety analysis in each department before every major task
- Perform weekly inspections
- Create a plan to eliminate a particular hazard to the lowest level
- Develop a written system to document and investigate accidents
- Hold safety drills for emergencies
Remember to get employees involvement in the development of safety goals and distribute the final safety goals to everyone.
Employers must give employees the tools necessary to recognize hazards, mitigate them, and protect themselves. New hires should receive extensive safety training prior to beginning work, before a new task, and continuous refresher training should be implemented. On-the-job training and worksite demonstrations promote safe work practices.
All employees should receive training on the organization’s safety and health program and their roles. Comprehensive hazard recognition and control training must also be implemented. Environmental health and safety training is available online and covers areas such as OSHA Standards, MSHA, Storage Tanks, Confined Spaces, and DOT.
Once you’ve set realistic safety goals, you have to track performance and evaluate the success of the initiatives. After verifying that safety plans are implemented as intended, periodically assess the progress on each goal and identify areas for improvement. Safety goal performance evaluation can be one of the goals assigned to a team such as a safety committee.
Start with modest, achievable goals, assign tasks to specific people or teams to achieve them, allocate the needed resources and training, and evaluate progress. Safety is a group endeavor and requires continuous improvement and training. If you need convenient OSHA training to make your safety and health plan a success, check out our affordable 30-hour and 10-hour OSHA courses for both general industry and construction.