Tips to help ensure a safer, healthier workplace
By: Meagan Baron
October 3, 2019
What are the Commonsense Rules for workplace safety? Well, in addition to purchasing various business insurance policies, there is a general set of guidelines that Mosaic Insurance Alliance uses to help create a positive workplace atmosphere. Each of the guidelines below are nicknamed such because they simply make sense for all employers and employees in all kinds of situations.
In addition to following state laws and purchasing business insurance, such as commercial general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance, these guidelines can help create a safer and healthier workplace for both you and your employees.
Don’t let anything get between you and the safety of your business. Save and print the infographic below to help you design your company’s safety action plan, and to help remind you to keep it updated as time goes on. You can save the infographic as an image on your computer or phone—right click for your computer or select and hold on your phone until a menu appears. For a clearer document, save the picture as a PDF.
1. Keep the Place Tidy and Clean—Highlighte and Remove Hazards:
What hazards are in your place of business? Most workplace injuries are caused by falls and collisions, and knowing what potential hazards could harm your employees, customers, and visitors can help you keep your workspace safe and welcoming. If you apply the old saying “A place for everything and everything in its place,” you’ll significantly reduce the risk of this kind of accident.
Practicing cleanliness is also a must. Make it a top priority to keep all areas of your building clean and up to health code. Sickness can be caused by poor hygiene in places like the bathroom and kitchen. Bacterial infection is passed through shared items like phones and door handles. Hang up hand-washing notices and keep a ready supply of items like antibacterial wipes, soap, hand sanitizer, and tissues. Also, cleanliness goes beyond dusting and wiping services—for example, does your building have a clogged sewage problem or a dead animal somewhere? Odors like that can cause sickness in addition to making your place of business uncomfortable and untasteful for everyone—workers and customers alike.
2. Have Effective Heating and Ventilation:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have set legal maximum or minimum temperatures and humidity levels, but keep in mind that some states do. Like with everything, it is important to make sure that you are aware of your state laws and regulations. In addition to laws, keep in mind that comfortable temperature working conditions are a basic component of a good workplace. Your employees and customers will thank you for your consideration. As they say, a good workplace is where the best, most productive workers hangout. A win-win for all those involved.
Some things to take in account:
- Needed temperatures can vary per situation. In other words: the nature of the job may affect the temperatures in which you expect people to work. (Example: You have a restaurant and the kitchen staff use a large freezer to store frozen goods—the freezer will definitely have different needed temperatures than the space where the meals are prepared or the staff lounge.)
- Your state OSHA can help you determine what to do for the different areas of your workplace.
- Outside of extreme variations (like a room that needs to be really cold or really hot), a useful guideline to follow is: (1) working temperatures in the range of 68-76 degrees, and (2) a humidity range of 20-60%.
- Cigarette smoke: Most states no longer permit smoking in public buildings and workplaces, except, rarely, in strictly controlled, designated areas (like certain rooms at a casino). Many times, businesses have bans on smoking outside within a certain distance of doors and windows. We all know that smoking is dangerous to health and, since you know that, employees could try to hold you liable for any health problems they suffer because of others’ smoking. Make sure that you have a smoking policy in place and that all employees know of it and follow it.
- Environmental Protection Agency has two useful factsheets on passive smoking.
- OSHA provides guidance on indoor air quality, which you can find here.
- OSHA has some information on state laws and regulations.
3. Have the Right Safety Equipment:
Be prepared in case something happens at your place of business.
- Keep a well-stocked first aid kit—different sized band aids, medical tape, Neosporin, disposable gloves, sterile gauze pads, etc. Check out American Red Cross for more ideas on what to put in a first aid kit. Keep in mind that medical items may need replacing in the future even if they are not used up—for instance, creams expire, and band-aids can lose their stickiness as they sit unused.
- Make sure that fire extinguishers are not expired and are professionally checked regularly.
- Make sure that your employees know (1) how to use fire extinguishers properly, (2) what to do in case there is a fire, and (3) what to do if they are on fire. Red Cross has some great information and resources on fires that can be found here.
- Have fire blankets.
- Make sure that alarms are always working—i.e. fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide alarms. Having backup batteries for these alarms is a good idea.
- Have plenty of any specialist products needed to deal with hazards specifically related to your type of business.
- Brooms, dustpans, vacuums, mops, and other items that are able to pick up unwanted spillage like water and broken glass.
Making sure that all employees know where to get the above items will help your office stay safe. Also, having a policy where employees notify you when supplies get to a certain restock level can be very helpful to ensure that you are not out when you need them most.
4. Provide Safety Skills and Understanding:
Always have at least one qualified first aider in your business. If you don’t have that currently, get training for yourself or pay for one or more employees to do so.
Additionally, everyone in your workplace needs to understand and buy-in to your commitment to a safe workplace. Have a written safety code that is easy to access and make it clear that compliance is mandatory.
5. Store Dangerous Materials Properly:
Everything that could be dangerous needs to be stored in its proper place—whether it be chemicals or things that are flammable, sharp, potentially poisonous or noxious, etc. For example, cleaning fluids, maintenance materials, and scissors are items that should be handled with care. Certain items will need to be properly labeled, stored under lock and key, and/or have clear instructions on how they should be handled.
6. Have the Right Clothes for the Job:
If any jobs in your business require protective clothing that is designed for the job at hand, make sure that your employees are engaging. Examples include steel toecap shoes, hard-hat helmets, safety glasses, and safety gloves. Make sure that your employees have access to these items and are using them properly.
Keep in mind that even some office jobs need safety clothing. For example, some tasks like changing the toner on a copier or making temporary repairs to broken equipment or furniture, might require protective gear.
7. Treat Others—and Equipment—With Respect:
Any hint of workplace violence or other abusive behavior should be curtailed immediately, with a clear warning of disciplinary action.
Encourage fellow teammates to show special consideration for those less physically able and to alert others when a danger is spotted.
Also, make sure that people in the office are cautious with their actions. Did they clean up spilt liquids on the floor? Are they taking care when opening doors—could someone be on the other side that could get hit if it is opened too hard and fast?
Your business equipment deserves the same respect—no liquids near computers and other electrical equipment, caution is in place when using sharp items or replacing blades, power steering equipment is off when not in use, and so on. Maybe you don’t use very sharp objects to complete daily tasks in your business…But most offices have scissors on each desk and food utensils like knives in the kitchen. Whichever your business is equipped with, you need to treat cutting blades and other dangerous items as what they are—potentially lethal weapons.
8. Have an Emergency Plan and Conduct Regular Drills:
The important thing is that you must have a plan for the sort of emergencies that might occur in your workplace.
Your safety plan needs to be written down and regularly reviewed and updated. Make sure that it is easily accessible to all employees and that it is brought up on a regular basis. Having different pieces of it hanging up in related locations can be very helpful—like having the part of your safety plan that talks about fire evacuation areas, exit locations, and steps on how to use a fire extinguisher next to the fire alarm and extinguisher.
It is also a good idea to go over the safety plan with all new employees when they start their job, or whenever an employee transfers to a different location.
The sad reality is that most firms don’t have such a plan, and when disaster strikes, they wish that they did. Do not be unprepared.
9. Be Aware of Health Issues:
You need to act quickly when dealing with contagious sicknesses. You can’t go snooping around, but you can use your eyes and ears to pick up on issues that suggest a health problem. This could be anything from colds and flu to a more serious problem that, by affecting an individual’s performance, poses a safety risk.
You need to encourage an open and honest working environment where people feel safe to talk about these things. And you need to make it clear that you don’t want heroes who in into work when they are sick and pass around their germs. Have a system that enables these people to work from home if they want to.
Workplace stress is another increasingly important health issue that you need to be aware of.
10. Protect Yourself—and Your Stuff:
You need to be concerned about the security of your employees, your equipment, anything else you store in the building, and the safety of your building and property space. Ask yourself questions like:
- Are my employees safe working here?
- Are my employees’ actions safe to themselves and others?
- Is the equipment that is being used or stored on the property safe?
- Is my building—structures, stairs, railings, floors, etc.—safe for others to be around and use?
- Are my sidewalks, parking lots, and the like safe for everyone to walk on? Are there tripping and/or slipping hazards?
Keep note that everyone needs to be safe—you, employees, visitors, and even unwelcome/uninvited people. For example, did you know that if someone breaks into your business, and injures themselves because of safety hazards that could have been avoided with proper care, he/she could sue you? ...Yes, you read that right. Believe us—it happens.
Having all around safety is especially important if you run a business that regularly interacts with the public and/or keeps significant money or other valuables on the premises.
If you have valuables, you probably already have security alarms and cameras installed, and, hopefully, you told your employees never to mess with a robber—Just give him/her the money!—and, if you haven’t, do that now. Always keep hazardous materials locked away—particularly items that could cause damage if they fell in to the wrong hands. The basic rule against intruders is to do all you can to prevent the situation. By doing so, you could save on your business insurance too. For more information on the different commercial insurance we offer, give us a call at 425-247-0208, or visit our business coverage page. You can also fill out a form to request a free quote.
Life happens. Even the most prepared boss in the safest workplace can have an accident happen. If an accident were to happen, make sure that you keep record! Also, keep records of other things like complaints, equipment installations, employee suggestions, training programs, and disaster action and recovery plans. Always know how your safety policies and programs are doing and what needs to be done next to make them even better. Keeping documents helps your business be safe daily, as well as help protect your business if something were to happen and you need to go to court.
You may have other commonsense workplace tips to add to your list. GREAT! Knowing your business and how you can tend to your special needs is fantastic. Whatever you decide your guidelines are, you need to make sure they are up-to-date and that everyone—employees, customers, and visitors—knows them and implements them.