Staffing Appropriately: Employee And Customer Safety

Customer and employee safety is extremely important for every single business. Period. No matter what business you are in, you will have OSHA safety standards that you will have to abide by for safety regulations to keep both your employees and customers safe while working and shopping. Abiding by these regulations is absolutely necessary and required, and can limit your liability when an accident does happen.

Depending on the type of business you’re in there may be more or less OSHA regulations to pay attention to and to train employees on.

Employees have the right to work in safe conditions, free from hazards and known dangers. For office workers this can include providing employees ergonomic keyboards, ensuring isles are free from trip hazards, fire extinguishers are setup in the proper places (and ensuring they are checked monthly), etc.

In stores where customers shop the hazards can be a bit different because there are more hazards to watch out for. I work in a warehouse where customers shop, which produces its own set of hazards. Some general things to think about when looking for hazards in a customer-based environment include ensuring:

  • Fire extinguishers are posted in the correct locations, are not blocked, and are checked on a monthly basis.
  • There is no products on the floor in the isles that can be tripped over.
  • There is no water or other liquid on the floor that can be slipped on.
  • There are posted wet floor signs where appropriate.
  • All hazardous spills are blocked off and cleaned up per OSHA standards.
  • All overhead products are stacked to the correct height, where appropriate.
  • All overhead pallets are stacked in compliance with OSHA laws, where appropriate.
  • All hand-stacked products are secure and cannot fall on a customer.
  • Products that must be marked with certain hazardous tags have the appropriate tags visible.
  • There is no protruding products from shelves that can create a hazard.
  • Lighting, including extension cords, are used for no more than 24 hours without being shut off.

These are just a few of the things to look for when conducting a safety sweep. These are a lot of things to look for, especially when working in a large building. So, how do you staff appropriately to ensure these things are all checked daily?

First, schedule at least two opening employees per department. This way one employee can check for safety concerns first thing during their shift. The second employee can put away returns, assist with fixing safety issues, and complete any other daily tasks or requests from upper management.

Second, create a team that focuses on safety of the company for the benefit of both the employees and customers. Once a month, or even once a week, schedule these employees specifically to walk the entire store looking for safety concerns, and then to fix them.

Third, hold your employees accountable. Having a safety checklist where the employee signs off daily helps with holding employees accountable in the event that safety concerns are found. If one employee continues to overlook safety concerns begin the coaching and write-up process to help adjust the employee’s performance.

In a warehouse environment employees may be required to hold a forklift license to ensure they can operate the forklift, reach, or other equipment to help fix safety issues. When scheduling opening employees it is helpful to schedule at least one employee with a forklift license so safety issues can be addressed immediately.

Safety Culture – Management Leadership and Employee Participation

Is there a simple method to increase employee safety awareness, reduce injuries and loss producing events, reduce operating costs, enhance overall productivity, and improve employee morale?

The answer is yes! There are many ways that this can be accomplished and as a business leader you can approach this challenge, by simply developing and managing the safety process in a more effective manner. This will lead to an effective safety culture as everyone starts to trust the system.

The question: How do I go about doing this? There is a simple answer! No matter how sophisticated you think that your safety efforts are, your system can always be improved. Our discussion will include all organizations, no matter how small.

To have an understanding of where you are on compliance, you may consider deploying some resources to evaluate your current system to see if the mandated legal requirements are maintained as intended by regulatory requirements. In the United States, the Federal Occupational Safety (OSHA) Act states that “Employers must furnish a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”

The current OSHA format is written in a way that fragments the Safety Process into a series of separate programs. So, this series of articles will briefly discuss each section of the Guideline and the improved benefits that you can expect from implementation.

As we continue our series we will provide an explanation of how to implement each requirement. In addition, we will include some useful tools that will help in initiating or improving your safety system. Therefore, the basic elements presented in this series are intended to cover all industries and organizations no matter the size. You will find that once you understand the basic concepts and start to implement these concepts you may want to expand and/or enhance the safety system to meet your organization. Program Elements You should note that there are consistent elements associated with each OSHA Voluntary Safety process. We will discuss these elements in more detail throughout this series of articles.

In the voluntary programs, OSHA outlines five elements that will help you to create a successful management system. For simplification, we have broken these elements into six sections. Although management and employee participation is complementary and forms the core of an effective safety process, we want to make sure that everyone understands that there is still a clear and distinct difference between management of the operation and employee participation.

Compliance with OSHA standards is an important objective. However, if you develop a successful management system, this becomes a non-issue. In this article we will discuss, what we feel are the core elements in any successful safety system, Management Leadership and Employee Participation. Management Leadership Management leadership from the top down is the most important part of any process. “Lip service”, is not going to work for you. If management demonstrates commitment, provides the motivating force, and the appropriate resources to manage safety, an effective system can be developed and will be sustained. According to OSHA, this demonstration of leadership should include the following elements that are consistent with an effective program:

  • Establishing the program responsibilities of managers, supervisors, and employees for safety and holding them accountable for carrying out these responsibilities.
  • Providing managers, supervisors, and employees with the authority, access to relevant information, training, and resources they need to carry out their safety responsibilities.
  • Identifying at least one manager, supervisor, or employee to receive and respond to reports about safety conditions and, where appropriate, to initiate corrective action.

If employees can see the emphasis that top management puts on safety, they are more likely to emphasize it in their own work and personal activities. It is important for management and supervision to follow set safety rules and work practices, which will provide a good example for all employees.

Managers must show their commitment and involvement in other ways. For example, doing plant-wide safety inspections; personally stopping potential hazardous activities or conditions until the hazards can be corrected or controlled; personally tracking safety performance; and holding managers and employees accountable for their actions.

The elements of management leadership also should include ensuring equal safety of any contract employees. Just remember Management must demonstrate their commitment. In reality, demonstration means “do as I do.” This is an important concept no matter what you are trying to accomplish, always “walk-the-walk, and talk-the-talk”. Remember: Actions speak louder than words.

The following of some basic elements where management must show their leadership to provide a safe workplace. Safety Policy By developing a clear policy statement of management support, you help everyone involved with the worksite understand the importance of safety in relation to other organizational values. By clearly communicating the policy to all employees, you ensure that no confusion will exist when a conflict arises between two of these values, such as productivity, quality, and safety. This is important, as it sets the stage to a successful process. Goals and Objectives You should make your general safety policy as specific as possible by establishing clear goals and objectives for the organization. These goals and objectives set the framework for assigning specific responsibilities. Each employee should be able to see his/her work activities in terms of moving toward the stated goals and achieving objectives.

Do not get caught up in writing a document for a policy statement and expecting employees to remember the rules. For example, I was involved in several situations where there was a written policy statement which consisted of 2 pages, a 40 page set of work rules, and department specific work rules. What is needed is a simple statement that sets the stage and something that everyone can remember. Assignment of Responsibilities Everyone in the workplace should have some type responsibility for safety. Clear assignments help avoid overlaps or gaps in accomplishing required activities. In particular, you must ensure that the safety professional is not assigned line responsibility that properly belongs to line management and supervision. This line responsibility would include functions such as supervising and evaluating the employee’s performance in areas of safety, providing on-the-job training in safe work practices and any required personal protective equipment (PPE), and encouraging employee participation in safety activities.

These responsibilities should flow logically from the goals and objectives that were established to meet the overall management system goals. Provision of Authority Any assignment of responsibility must be accompanied by authority and adequate resources. The latter includes appropriately trained and equipped employees as well as sufficient operational and capital funding. Accountability Once you have assigned responsibility and provided the appropriate authority and resources to all employees, you must follow up by holding those employees accountable for achieving what they have been asked to do. Accountability is crucial to helping employees understand how critical their individual performances are allowing them to take personal responsibility for their actions and performance. Employee Participation In any successful safety system, employees should be provided an opportunity to participate in establishing, implementing, and evaluating the safety process.

Employee participation provides the means that allows them to develop and/or express their safety commitment to themselves and/or their fellow workers. To fulfill and enhance employee participation, management should implement some form of the following elements:

  • Regularly communicating with all employees concerning safety matters
  • Providing employees with access to information relevant to the safety system
  • Providing ways for employees to become involved in hazard identification and assessment, prioritizing hazards, safety training, and management system evaluation
  • Establishing procedures where employees can report work-related incidents promptly and ways they can make recommendations about appropriate solutions to control the hazards identified
  • Providing prompt responses to reports and recommendations

It is important to remember that under an effective management system employers do not discourage employees from reporting safety hazards and making recommendations about incidents, or hazards, or from participating in the safety process.

Sources:

“Developing an Effective Safety Culture: A Leadership Approach” by James Roughton

“Job Hazard Analysis” by James Roughton and Nathan Crutchfield.

The Safety Program Management Guidelines, published in the Federal Register (54 FR 3908) on January 26, 1989