4 Ideas to improve workplace safety in the USA

Now more than ever, regional Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Managers are faced with challenges in acquiring and providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), training employees for tasks, conducting audits, and assessing compliance.

With so many regulations to track and comply with you might be wondering how to best improve safety in your workplace. Now more than ever, regional Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS) Managers are faced with challenges in acquiring and providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), training employees for tasks, conducting audits, and assessing compliance. Below you will find 4 ideas for how to improve workplace safety during these extraordinary times as well as when things go back to “business-as-usual.”

1. Provide adequate personal protective equipment for employee workplace safety

One key element of employee safety is to provide adequate PPE. PPE is required under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) in the US. In fact, an entire regulatory subsection of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) standard (1910 Subpart I) is dedicated to the regulation of different types of PPE based on workplace circumstances.

PPE is a major contributor to workplace safety

Thus, regional EHS managers must provide the required PPE under this standard. PPE includes equipment to protect the heads and bodies of employees and there are specific requirements for the ears, eyes, feet, hands, etc. This is, quite obviously, an important regulation to follow and regional EHS managers should strive to provide adequate, high quality PPE and to adjust PPE based on changing circumstances (e.g. job responsibilities/tasks) of the employees.

Train employees as part of workplace safety protocol

OSHA has many requirements related to training employees. Training is a cornerstone of creating a safe workplace environment.

2. Train employees effectively on workplace safety

Employees who are not given proper training in safety are at a major disadvantage. For instance, if an employer purchases adequate PPE but does not train employees in how to use that PPE – how to correctly wear ear protection, how to correctly secure respirators and other masks – then that PPE is not effective and safety in the workplace will not improve. Employees who lack training cannot protect themselves well and thus the quantity and quality of training should meet (and ideally exceed) OSHA’s standards.

3. Follow best practices for employee safety in the workplace

In addition to mandatory requirements, such as OSHA standards, there are voluntary standards that regional EHS managers can follow to ensure that best practices for employee safety are in place.  For instance, ISO standard 45001:2018 provides a framework for health and safety in the workplaceThe Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides standard 403 to help aid employees in perfecting occupational health and safety. If a regional manager wants to be on the “cutting edge” of safety practices, then he/she should look beyond mandatory requirements when structuring corporate safety programs.

4. Conduct safety audits in each workplace department

It is important for any employer to take the step that comes after complying with safety regulations and implementing best practices recommended by voluntary standards. This step is to confirm that each department within the workplace is, in fact, making employee safety a priority.

Internal audits help improve workplace safety

One option is to conduct an internal audit on a regular schedule (e.g. yearly, quarterly) to ensure that certain practices and procedures are not just in writing; they are being implemented. These audits will allow a company’s EHS department to confirm that the company is complying with all applicable regulatory requirements and to make sure that employees are protected.

If there are any issues – such as the discovery that an employee is not wearing the PPE provided – then the employer can take action to correct such a problem before it becomes a much bigger problem. Having a record of audits over time will help EHS staff make necessary adjustments and show due diligence in the face of formal inspections and audits that take place.

Conclusion: Improve safety and stay modern

Regional EHS managers should be encouraged to be creative in their approach to safety – stay modern, use technology where appropriate, and adjust to changing and unforeseen circumstances.

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