P.O. Box 1750, Cockysville, MD, 21030
Print PDF version
410-337-9755 Website

Simplify Your Safety Procedures

Bookmark and Share
It has been said that the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly in order to prevent overzealous government officials from passing any crazy law they want. It can be frustrating, but our government has those checks and balances in place to ensure that lawmakers have time for extensive deliberation before putting any plan into action.

This is the opposite of what you want when it comes to workplace safety. When it comes to implementing safety procedures, responding to emergencies, and training your employees, speed is of the utmost importance. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where something has caught on fire and nobody knows whose job it is to call 911.

Here are some points to keep in mind when developing your safety plan to ensure fast, informed response to emergency situations:

  • Emergency response is first priority. Whoever is on the scene of an accident should generally be the person to call 911 and/or the on-site medical staff, and then brief everyone else on the situation. In some companies you might have a designated person, a security officer, a foreman, etc. who will make the call, but the more people you need to contact before making the call, the worse the situation is going to get.
  • Emergency equipment should be immediately accessible. A first aid box mounted on the wall is a good start. Don't keep your bandages and smelling salts in a locked desk drawer somewhere on the third floor, make sure that employees are never more than a short walk away from fire extinguishers, first-aid, and the means to contact first responders.
  • Brief all new employees immediately. If you schedule someone's safety briefing for a week after they start working, you might create a situation where they're left desperately asking their co-workers where you keep the band-aids or how to find the emergency exits. Extensive training can be scheduled as and when is convenient, but new employees should be given a basic-yet-comprehensive safety briefing on the morning of their first day.
A basic rule of thumb: try to make sure that, should something happen, nobody ever needs to ask anybody else "Well, now what do we do?" Keep your safety procedures simple and straightforward so that your people can move quickly in an emergency, and so that they're never confused about how to keep their work environment safe.

Overworked and At-Risk

Bookmark and Share
A study at Occupational & Environmental Medicine has turned up some interesting, if not quite surprising conclusions.

The study began by poring over extensive data from sources like the Center for Disease Control, in order to classify five types of exposure:

  • Extended weekly hours.
  • Extended daily hours.
  • Overtime.
  • Extended commute.
  • Overtime or extended hours.

We could fill five or ten pages talking about how they calculated the risks and came to their conclusions, and you can go ahead and read the study and the source data if that interests you, but it breaks down like this: Those who work under a high level of exposure in any of these categories tend to suffer workplace injury at double the rate of those who do not.

The study suggests an injury rate of one in ten for high-exposure employees, and one in twenty for low-exposure employees.

In other words, no matter how hard you work to make your workplace safe, by overworking your employees, you're automatically doubling your risk.

Here are a few ideas to keep your employees safe and your risk factors low:

  • Try to avoid hiring people who will need to commute an hour or more in order to get to work every day. It may be disappointing to let the perfect candidate go simply because they live a little too far away, but not as disappointing as losing that employee to injury for a month because they're spending so much time on the road every day that they don't have time for a good night's sleep.
  • Save overtime for Fridays. Nobody's going to be as alert as you need them to be doing two twelve hour days in a row.
  • Hire enough people. Having one person do the job of two sounds like a great idea until you look at what an injury is going to cost you when they're staying late every day to handle the extra work.

In short: a well-rested employee is an alert employee, and an alert employee is less at-risk for injury on the job. This may not be the most surprising revelation, but now we have the numbers to see exactly how exhaustion plays into workplace safety.

What's the Worst That Could Happen When You're Inadequately Insured?

Bookmark and Share
The point in time when you didn't need insurance for your business was when it was just you, on a laptop, in your garage, and you hadn't even launched your first product yet. As soon as you've seen any sort of success in your industry, liability, lititgiousness and the random chance of bad luck can all come into play and topple what you've worked so hard to build. Here are some numbers you need to know, via surveys courtesy of YouGov and private insurance companies:

  • 60% of those polled agreed that it was important to insure stock and equipment, while only 40% said that insuring key personnel would be equally important. This, in spite of the fact that 77% of those surveyed said that their businesses would see a major impact were a key employee to be unable to show up for work for six months or longer.
  • 66% of businesses lack business interruption insurance.
  • Only one in five small businesses polled have a disaster recovery plan in place, even though small businesses tend to be the ones most impacted by disaster. Over half of the businesses polled said it could take them three months or longer to recover from a disaster, should they be able to recover at all.
  • 38% claimed that they didn't think it was important to have a disaster plan in place at all.

If you want a "worst case scenario" example of what can happen without the proper insurance, consider how many businesses were wiped off the market permanently by Hurricane Katrina.

Your Hurricane Katrina might not be a natural disaster, but a car accident that puts a key employee out of commission for the better half of a year. The principle remains the same: you need to be insured against anything from which you cannot easily recover. This is important for big businesses, and several times as important for small and medium businesses.

Do Safety Drills Work?

Bookmark and Share
Remember when you were in school and they'd run fire drills? Everyone would walk out of the classroom single-file, alarms blaring over the intercom, and then you'd all just stand out in the soccer field for ten, twenty minutes while the teachers counted heads.

Were these drills really of any use? Did they ever save any lives? Or were they just a way to break up the monotony of schoolwork and let the teachers step outside for a smoke?

Well, hiding under your desk like a Cold War kid isn't going to shield you from an atomic blast, but believe it or not, safety drilling really can help, when you're practicing a reasonable response to a realistic threat. Here's what you need to know about safety drills.

  • It's more of a troubleshoot than a practice run. The truth is that a drill isn't really about learning how to get out of the building safely. Most of us already know how to get up and walk out of a door. It's more of a dry-run evacuation to find out where you might find a jammed escape door or a faulty smoke alarm on your way out the building. Run enough drills and you may be able to bring those issues down to zero, as these numbers from Stanford Law show.
  • What you learn during a safety drill might help other people run safer workplaces. The concept of the fire drill started with a tragic fire at Chicago's Our Lady of the Angels School in 1958. The fire department was called, but given the wrong address. People were trapped inside, unable to find a nearby exit. The lessons learned through this tragedy were used to completely reinvent fire safety across the country, and the tradition has continued, using safety drills to trouble shoot and change regulation across the board.
  • We're still learning. The fear of school shootings has led many to wonder if it's a good idea to sound an alarm and get everyone in one place where a shooter might have easier access. So far, nobody has a perfect answer to this question.

If you go ten years without a fire, you might wish you hadn't wasted all that time on drills. However, it only takes one frayed wire or malfunctioning coffee maker to make you glad you did.