1. Find their specific needs
Before starting any new program or safety initiative, the first task must be seeking to understand where your employees currently are regarding their health and safety. Gathering recent data on common musculoskeletal disorders, workers compensation claims and OSHA recordables is a great place to start. Next, one should complete a site evaluation with qualified professionals to assess each department for musculoskeletal disorder risks and other possible ergonomic issues.
2. Keep them flexible
Using the knowledge gathered from the site observation and data regarding common musculoskeletal disorders, create a task specific at-work stretch routine for each department. This will be a sequence of guided stretches used to warm up the major muscle groups required to complete the job task. Sometimes this will be a full body stretch routine for an active warehouse worker or a wrist and neck specific routine for a more sedentary office worker.
3. Educate on proper posture and ergonomics
A major source of pain in the human body is misalignment, whether it be in specific joints or the body as a whole. When employees have bad posture, they are setting themselves up for a losing battle with gravity. The result of that loss? Chronic back and neck pain. Whether your employees are working on a factory line, sitting at a computer desk, or utilize a standing desk, use these following checklists to make sure they have optimal alignment.
4. Promote an active lifestyle
Engage your associates to better their health by providing various fitness offerings. Having an on-site fitness facility or stations for employees to use is the best way to promote an active lifestyle. When employees are exercising regularly, they strengthen their muscles, bones, joints, and mind. This helps their body become more resilient, lowering their risk of injury. Active employees are also more likely to be at a healthier weight, which decreases the stress on their joints and the possibility of overuse injuries, such as knee pain from standing.
5. Find ways to decrease stress
Stress is becoming more prevalent in today’s world and the workplace is not immune to its’ effects. Employees may experience stress from outside factors such as problems with their significant other, family or friends. Letting them know they have the means to talk with someone who can listen, and help could go a long way in preventing the ill effects of stress. A qualified professional can provide such help during coaching sessions with employees. Financial stress is reported as the most common stress related to the workplace. A recent article, Money on Employees Minds, provides details on financial stress and how it relates to employee safety.
6. Give them the hard facts
For employees to understand why safety is important and why any changes being made are necessary for them individually, it is good to give them an idea of the big picture first. Having all-hands meetings to present associates with safety performance numbers and goals a few times throughout the year is the best way to accomplish this. It is not enough to just hang a few posters with OSHA recordable injuries and incident rates in the break room. Engaging the associates through a PowerPoint presentation and encouraging them to ask questions is a much more effective strategy in getting their support.
7. Find and develop safety leaders
If you are reading this article it is safe to assume that you have leadership in your organization regarding safety. Whether you oversee 100 or 1,000 employees, your individual effort will never be enough to keep them safe. Maximize your influence by spreading leadership responsibility to others, letting them be the boots on the ground for safety initiatives. For example, during your pre-shift stretch routine, assign stretch leaders to guide other associates in their specific area.
8. Invest time and money in developing workstations
Providing fatigue mats on the factory floor, assigning associates to workstations appropriate for their height and body type, and giving office workers the option of standing desks or alternative chairs, such as stability balls or various types of “wobble chairs” will all help employees in several ways. Not only will they feel better, but it will go a long way in showing that you care which can help increase morale, increase production and decrease injury.
9. Promote employee involvement in safety initiatives
Develop a safety committee (comprised of both managers and employees) which meets on a regular basis to evaluate safety concerns and implement solutions. Encourage open communication from employees regarding safety issues through providing Symptom Surveys and Immediate Response Forms. These forms are available to employees for early detection and reporting of ergonomic issues. Also provide forms for Safety Concern Notices for employees to report hazardous conditions and provide their suggestions for improvement. When employees have a say in the process, they develop a stronger connection to the cause and will stand behind it.
10. Develop a comprehensive new hire orientation program
A new hire orientation program is one of best times to provide education on health and safety to prepare employees for the job. A good new hire orientation program will help “set the tone” of the importance of health and safety. There are many things that make a great new hire program. Education such as, covering the safety standards you have in place, who to contact if they have a safety issue and even health are great ways to set-up employees for success. Some companies will even take their program a step further and offer a work conditioning or safety training program. Allowing time for employees to work with a professional to physically go through safety training or a conditioning program to prepare their body for the job, will help them and you. When an employee can physically perform a job easier, they will be happier which can increase morale and retention.