When you look at corporate to-dos, nothing should outrank the well-being of a company’s most precious asset: its employees.
However, the International Labour Organization (ILO) paints a sobering picture, suggesting that a staggering 2.3 million individuals globally lose their lives to work-related accidents or diseases annually—equivalent to more than 6,000 fatalities each day!
Employee well-being is clearly not on as many to-do lists as we’d hoped.
Workplace safety, often treated as a mere formality, should be of critical importance.
It’s the bedrock of a company that thrives, endures, and continues to spark innovation.
As we navigate the twists and turns of modern work—thanks to hybrid models and remote work challenges—the call for thoughtful leadership in ensuring workplace safety couldn’t be louder.
So, let’s dive into a journey that goes beyond compliance, exploring the deep impact of workplace safety and the strategies that hoist it from a law to a core value.
What is workplace safety?
Picture this: a worker goes to the office every day knowing they’re free from any type of danger—physical, mental, or even cyber.
That, in essence, is what workplace safety is—and isn’t that what we all want?
It’s when a worker can accomplish all their tasks and engage with their coworkers and working equipment without any type of risk.
Gone are the days when workplace safety only meant physical health, a pair of gloves, and a hard hat.
Today, workplace safety encompasses all factors that affect physical and mental well-being and even cyber protection.
So, looking at environmental hazards, working conditions and processes, workplace violence, and the mental health of the workers is all part of workplace safety.
At a national level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for overseeing workplace safety.
OSHA’s guidelines (shown below) have recently been updated to fit the global changing working conditions, such as:
- Shifting economy: move from manufacturing to service-oriented businesses and from a fixed workforce (in office) to a mobile workforce (remote)
- Technological integration: automation introduces new hazards with technology, apps, and cyber risks
- Diverse workforce: increased workplace diversity with people from various backgrounds and cultures
- Ageing workforce: a rise in sedentary work and lifestyle leads to a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders
- Expanded hazard recognition: an acknowledgment that supposedly safe industries actually pose significant hazards
- Changing work relationships: increased temporary, contract employment and the gig economy require new adaptations
Following these changes you’ll find OSHA’s current guidelines:
Now that we’re on the
safe same page on what workplace safety means, we can look at how it can benefit your business (spoiler alert: it goes beyond physical workplace safety and your BAU compliance policies).
How can workplace safety benefit businesses?
There are more benefits to workplace safety than the obvious keeping employees safe.
“Ensuring workplace safety is both a duty and an investment for business owners. Healthy and safe workers can provide their best output to the organizations.
They’re also most likely to stay committed to the organization. In contrast, an unsafe environment results in increased absenteeism and creates a revolving door of employee turnover.
For businesses, sustainable growth is unattainable without workplace safety.”Farhan Siraj, CEO of OSHA Outreach Courses
Still struggling to build a business case? Here are some more benefits that effective and thoughtful workplace safety will bring to your business:
Prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses
According to the ILO, there are around 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million victims of work-related illnesses annually around the globe.
In Australia alone, there was a substantial 53% reduction in the worker fatality rate attributed to comprehensive staff training, stringent policies and procedures, and the implementation of new state and federal regulations.
These initiatives, coupled with the oversight of safety commissions, have collectively elevated worker safety to a central focus within business operations.
We’re hoping to see many more countries following suit in the coming years.
Improving compliance with laws and regulations
In the United States, the OSH Act was made to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthy for employees.
However, states are free to have their own safety programs, as long as they’re as good as the federal ones.
Workplace safety is not a nice to have, it’s a must. Abiding by government guidelines is mandatory to keep your business growing—and the lights on.
Wondering what happens if you neglect your legal responsibility? You could face hefty fines, legal action, and even the possibility of a jail sentence.
Additionally, non-compliance will damage your business’s public image. Think twice before you skip on those workplace safety guidelines!
Reducing business costs
Seeing safety as an investment, not just a cost, encourages stakeholders to find new ways to keep employees safe and happy.
And it’s true, workplace safety is a long-term investment, not just another cost.
According to the National Safety Council, businesses paid a total of $163.9 billion for workplace injuries in 2020.
Additionally, the Integrated Benefits Institute found that businesses paid a whopping $151 billion on sick leave alone in 2019.
The lesson? Keep your employees safe and healthy and you’ll be saving lives and dollars.
Increasing productivity and improving overall business operations
Ben Goodman, Chief Executive Officer at 4a Security, mentions how following workplace guidelines can help better engage with employees:
“Safety in the workplace promotes employee morale and productivity and can also protect a company’s reputation and even increase profitability.”Ben Goodman, Chief Executive Officer at 4a Security
Additionally, having good protocols and procedures that help employees feel, and be, safe can be used as a way to improve recruitment and retention.
A win-win all around.
Improving mental health and well-being
Here we pass on the mic to Laura Summer, Human Resources Specialist at Vignette Express:
“Improving workplace safety shows employees that our company cares about them and makes them feel supported.
This improves employee morale and job satisfaction, which leads to better overall mental health and well-being, which can result in higher employee retention and reduced turnover rates.”Laura Summer, Human Resources Specialist at Vignette Express
Keeping digital assets safe from cyber crimes
Another benefit of workplace safety is the safety of digital assets and the organization’s overall online reputation.
Parker Gilbert, CEO and Co-Founder at Numeric.io, shares with us:
“Workplace safety means creating a secure digital environment too.
This encompasses not just the physical well-being of our employees, but also extends to protecting our digital assets and sensitive data from cyber threats.”Parker Gilbert, CEO and Co-Founder at Numeric.io
Having explored the numerous benefits of workplace safety for businesses, it’s time to delve into strategies for safeguarding your organization, employees, and customers.
8 Strategies to improve workplace safety right now
Here’s the lowdown on the eight strategies that founders, HR professionals, and safety specialists are honing in on to boost workplace safety.
Build comprehensive health and safety training programs
When it comes to beefing up workplace safety, laying down the law with effective and thorough health and safety training programs is like teaching your team to fish.
Equipping them with the skills, tools, and know-how to navigate the rough waters of potential hazards and emergencies is what’s going to help you reduce preventable workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
“TravelPerk invests in thorough health and safety training programs for all employees. This includes an onboarding session for new hires and regular refresher courses for existing staff.
The training covers various aspects, such as emergency procedures, proper ergonomics, fire safety, and the correct usage of office equipment.
Employees are also educated on maintaining a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout. TravelPerk uses a proactive approach to ensure everyone is well-informed and equipped to contribute to a healthy work environment.”Erik Zorita, H&S Partner at TravelPerk
However, TravelPerk takes workplace safety a step further. They implement workplace safety best practices for remote teams and help their customers deliver on duty of care.
How do they achieve this—you might be wondering? Well, they have a safety-specific feature in their product called TravelCare.
TravelCare is a travel risk management solution that gives travelers and HR teams all the information, visibility, and support they need to ensure safe travels at all times for their workforce.
It includes pre-booking risk alerts and guidelines, notifies travelers and admins about risks during trips, facilitates emergency response through designated customer care support, and much more.
Perform regular health check-ups and wellness initiatives
Keeping your team in shipshape isn’t just about reacting to problems—it’s about proactive measures.
Regular health check-ups and wellness initiatives are the preventive medicine of the workplace.
It’s like an oil change for your employees—and a little maintenance goes a long way in ensuring that the machinery keeps running smoothly without any unexpected breakdowns.
TravelPerk’s Erik tells us more.
“TravelPerk offers their employees yearly medical check-ups, on top of that, we also provide wellness initiatives. Periodic health screenings, and assessments, are conducted to identify and address potential health concerns.
TravelPerk also promotes a culture of well-being by offering a psychological service with an external contractor, gym options, fruit in the office, furthermore, a designated quiet space for relaxation to contribute to fostering a holistic approach to health and safety within the workplace.”-Erik
Establish comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation strategies
In workplace safety, playing it by ear just won’t cut it. It’s time to get strategic with comprehensive risk assessments and mitigation plans.
Think of it like playing chess. You need to anticipate your opponent’s moves.
By identifying potential risks and having a game plan in place, you’re not just playing defense—you’re outmaneuvering the hazards before they even make a move.
Erik from TravelPerk explains a way to use data to your benefit.
“Conduct regular, comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential hazards and vulnerabilities within the workplace. This involves collaborative efforts with employees to gather insights into their daily tasks and potential safety concerns.
The findings are used to develop and implement targeted mitigation strategies. These strategies may include redesigning workspaces, updating safety protocols, and providing specialized training for high-risk activities.”-Erik
Additionally, it’s important to establish guidelines for effective incident reporting as this will help your organization gather better data on why an incident has happened.
This will then help you understand how to avoid it in the future.
Implement cybersecurity prevention and training
Neglecting cybersecurity in workplace safety is a critical oversight for some companies.
Entire businesses today exist solely online, failing to safeguard the digital assets of an organization and its employees can prove to be a huge mistake.
Ensure you have the right tools by your side, but also that you are providing the right training to make your employees masters of cybersecurity.
“With proper cybersecurity measures, businesses can protect themselves against hacking, phishing, and other online attacks.
Ensuring workplace safety, including cybersecurity protocols, protects the company’s assets and safeguards the employees who drive the business forward.”– Ben Goodman
Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, harassment, and violence
In the workplace, there’s no room for bullies and harassers—or at least, there shouldn’t be.
However, stats show that more and more employees are being victims of it nowadays.
A recent study found that 75% of employees have witnessed it and 20% of the workplace has been bullied.
Horrible stats if you ask us. That’s why many businesses are now implementing a zero-tolerance policy.
This sends a crystal-clear message that such behavior won’t fly in your domain.
Erik (Huy) Pham, an Official Member of the Forbes Business Council and founder of various companies, shares what that looks like in his businesses:
“Our online anti-bullying policy underscores the importance of respectful communication, a zero-tolerance approach to harassment, and clear reporting mechanisms for any concerns.
This ensures that every team member, regardless of their location, feels supported and protected. Our goal is to create a workplace culture where everyone can thrive without the fear of bullying.”Erik (Huy) Pham, an Member of the Forbes Business Council
Benefit from post-pandemic safety best practices
The pandemic has left a lasting mark on the world, including changes to workplace safety practices.
As Jack Dennerlein, adjunct professor of Ergonomics and Safety at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, puts it: “COVID-19 has stressed the system. All the flaws that have been in place are totally exposed and have come to the forefront of our daily conversations.”
Now businesses are aware of hygiene practices needed in the workplace and many companies now require their employees to stay home when they present even mild flu symptoms.
Additionally, many businesses have continued offering remote or hybrid work arrangements and with these, there is a need to evaluate how to keep workers safe wherever they are.
“Post-pandemic, our focus has been on maintaining a secure remote working environment for any employees who start remotely or choose to work remotely on occasion.
We’ve implemented guidelines that address remote work vulnerabilities, ensuring our team members can work securely from any location,”– Parker Gilbert
Changes have not only happened inside businesses, but in government guidelines too.
Now official entities have also started working on preventing another sanitary emergency by tightening their regulations and providing advice for remote work, for example.
Here’s a list of some outstanding changes across the globe:
- Singapore: implemented new regulations on teleworking or leave to safeguard vulnerable populations.
- India: the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare created materials for effective communication with COVID-19-suspected or confirmed individuals.
- New Zealand: occupational health professionals assisted in establishing ergonomic home offices for healthy teleworking.
- Bangladesh: research investigated cases of worker suicides linked to COVID-related unemployment or business closures.
- Malaysia: conducted a study on the unique risks faced by migrants concerning COVID-19.
Consider mental health as a workplace safety priority
Without proper support, mental health issues can seriously impact how someone feels about themselves at work, their ability to get the job done efficiently, their attendance, and their chances of keeping or finding new employment.
Just to put it in perspective, a whopping 12 billion workdays are lost annually due to depression and anxiety alone.
Luckily, implementing mental health check-ins and assistance programs, as well as providing stress management support and individual counseling services can really make a difference.
Wondering how you can do this? Check the apps and tools mentioned below!
Use technology to keep your employees safe
Technology can help businesses improve their workplace safety. From automated safety alerts to smart tracking systems, these innovations ensure that your team is surrounded by a virtual safety net, making their work environment as secure as can be.
Here are a few software and hardware options to consider for a safe workplace:
- Automated safety monitoring systems: using sensors and AI to monitor workplace conditions and potential risks. An example of this is Layla Electric which monitors appliances, crowds, safety alarms, and energy consumption.
- Wearable safety devices: implementing wearables can help you track health indicators or alert to hazards. For example, StrongArmTech has SafeWork, a wearable device that helps monitor the health and movement of the industrial workforce.
- Safety management software: utilizing software for incident reporting, safety training, and compliance tracking will give you all the data you need to make real changes and improvements. VelocityEHS is a cloud software solution that offers real-time monitoring for safety tracking in various industries including chemical manufacturing, construction, and more.
- Intrusion Detection System (IDS): Helping monitor network and system traffic for unusual or suspicious activity. UpGuard is an all-in-one third-party risk and attack surface management software to safeguard your company in the digital realm.
Here are a few safety-specific apps to consider for your tech stack:
With its TravelCare feature, it offers corporate travelers essential details like vaccination and visa requirements, as well as pre-departure alerts on potential disruptions and real-time notifications for changes.
A workforce management tool that offers well-being check-ins to ensure your employees are feeling at their best and it has private communication channels so they can raise any concerns or problems they might have.
Can help you offer mental health therapy to your employees if they feel they need it, and totally anonymously.
A workforce management system that allows you to track and oversee employee onboarding and workplace safety training.
Using virtual reality to better train your employees on workplace safety.
It’s time to start fostering a safe tomorrow by investing in workplace safety today
As we look ahead, workplace safety is not just a compliance checkbox but a vital aspect of successful businesses.
By embracing these innovative tools and the eight strategies mentioned, companies can ensure a safer, more productive, and sustainable future.
Prioritizing safety saves lives, makes your company more profitable, and last but not least, keeps your brand name as one that people can trust.
It’s a win, win, win, win, win, and so on and so forth.