Today’s post is the work of freelance writer Vincent West.
The human resources department plays a vital role in ensuring that all things related to the organization are running smoothly. Even in industries that do not involve regular safety hazards and dangerous working conditions, the HR department must promote adequate conditions to keep employees safe, healthy, and motivated.
In this article, we will focus on a wide variety of sectors (from both the blue and white collar industries) and discuss what specific measures HR departments can apply to offer employees a safe and healthy working environment. Here are a few HR strategies that promote employee safety.
Creating an Environment that Encourages Open Communication
First off, it is important to realize that employee safety is a two-way road. While the company is entirely responsible for the well-being of the employees, knowing and cataloging every current and potential safety issue is logistically impossible.
This is why the company in general, and the HR department in particular, should strive to create an environment that encourages open communication on any health or safety related issue. Even if a company has the tightest safety regulations on the market, the whole system can fall apart if the employees have a fear of expressing any concerns related to the workplace.
Implementing Clear Safety Policies and Zone Restrictions
Ideally, a workplace should be completely hazard-free, but some industries (construction, plumbing, and so on and so forth) are inherently more dangerous than others. If the workspace has a mixed office/industrial setting, employees that are not trained and qualified to work in certain positions should be discouraged (or even forbidden) to enter high-risk areas.
To mitigate the risk of any preventable accidents from occurring, the HR department should spread awareness by labeling risky environments with stickers and signs in high-traffic areas, sending out announcements and reminders and setting clear qualifications for entering said areas.
While corporate offices generally present less physical risk for employees, even those areas have several safety hazards. HR departments should make sure to identify all of these potential dangers (plumbing leaks, broken glass, slippery floors and so on and so forth) and inform employees as frequently as possible.
Promoting Adequate Equipment Usage
Another good strategy for ensuring employee safety is promoting adequate equipment and gear for construction workers, and workplace ergonomics for office or corporate employees. In regards to the construction industry, companies should ensure that workers are equipped with the following gear:
- Chains and harness. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls are the leading cause of worker fatality – in 2016, fatal falls caused 38.7 % of total deaths in construction (384 out of 991). Therefore, to decrease the likelihood of this happening, all construction workers should be equipped with chains and harnesses when accomplishing tasks that involve climbing.
- Safety vests. While safety vests are mainly used for visibility, in some sectors, they include protection from flame, mesh and
- Hard hats are a must to protect workers from falling objects, impacts and electric shock.
- Safety boots. When it comes to safety gear, footwear is one of the most overlooked aspects. However, sturdy construction boots are more important than most people realize, and not just because they protect the feet against falling objects – they help the feet maintain a healthy posture and prevent medical issues (blisters, bunions) from occurring.
- There are two types of construction boots, categorized by the type of toe they are equipped with – composite and steel toes. The former contains no metal and are built of out rubbers, carbon fiber and plastics, while the latter are tough pieces of steel. They both offer equal degrees of protection, with the sole difference being that composite toes are more comfortable and flexible. Therefore, the right type of toe depends on the nature of your job – if the job involves lots of climbing and jumping, composite toes are more adequate.
- Safety glasses and goggles for protecting the eyes against debris, corrosive chemicals, adverse weather effects and
- Safety earmuffs to prevent hearing loss due to repeated exposure to noises coming from drills, engines and other tools.
- Safety masks for hazards such as mists, dust, fumes and gases.
Promoting Workplace Ergonomics
As for corporate environments, where physical injuries are not as prevalent as they are on the construction site, HR departments and the company, in general, should focus on workplace ergonomics. In the broadest sense possible, workplace ergonomics is a concept that describes a friendly and efficient workspace that promotes safe and healthy conditions. Here are a few ergonomic principals that HR departments should promote in the office:
- Maintaining a healthy (namely neutral) posture at the desk. Neutral postures are postures wherein the body is perfectly aligned and balanced while either standing or sitting at the desk. Neutral postures put the least amount of stress on the tendons, nerves, and
- Designing an office area spacious enough to allow easy movement and occasional stretching. The human body is designed to be constantly on the move (hence the hunting-gathering origins of our species), and working for long hours in a static position will create what experts call ‘’static load’’. Therefore, the company should ensure that the office is arranged in such a way that it allows employees to stretch, even while sitting – so stacking as many desks next to each other as possible to save on space is not ideal.
- Provide adequate lighting. Dimly lit work areas, or offices with too much light, can cause great employee discomfort. Providing employees with adjustable lighting and not placing desks in front of windows and bright backgrounds are two great approaches to this issue.
Promoting Mental Health Awareness
It can be easy to put physical health over mental health because the latter is not as apparent when something goes wrong. However, as an employer, it is vital to take mental health seriously and ensuring your employees are getting the help they need.
The assistance can be as simple as allowing them to take some personal time off, to recommending them to a competent specialist. Even if them taking a short vacation may impact the business, it is a better strategy on the long term, as an employee who knows their wants and needs are accounted for is more willing to excel professionally.
Employee safety should be one of the top priorities of the HR department. The best way to ensure that the work environment is friendly, safe and healthy is by applying measures meant to raise worker awareness and improve the workspace in general.
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