Workplace health and safety best practices | BDC.ca
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How you can improve productivity through better health and safety practices

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A healthy and safe work environment will help make your employees happier and your company more productive. All employers want to avoid the consequences of an unsafe and unhealthy environment, starting with injured workers, but also including frequent sick leave, higher insurance premiums and training to replace absent employees.

Whether you're in an office or running a manufacturing plant, there are many steps you can take to create a better work setting. Here are some essentials to consider.

Get a solid program in place

Make sure your company has an occupational health and safety program. Put it in writing and lay it out clearly for employees in your company's orientation material. Be sure that you devise a training program that covers the use of equipment and shop machinery. Even though equipment may come with safety material, it's also crucial to make sure your program reflects the daily reality of your company. In an office, employees should be using ergonomically designed equipment to avoid common problems such as back and neck pain.

Get employee input

If you want your employees to buy into your program, it helps to get them involved in the process. Ask for their input in identifying possible defects in equipment and on ways to avoid injuries. In an office environment, for example, employees should be encouraged to watch their posture. In a manufacturing setting, internal "safety blitzes" can be an effective way of systematically reviewing safety regulations concerning the use of equipment, forklifts and other machinery.

Once you've gathered input from employees, it is a good idea to create a reference manual. Still, face-to-face meetings with employees are always the most effective way of ensuring your message is heard and understood.

Here are some basic safety rules that apply to any business setting.

  • Make sure that everyone knows safety and security measures, fire procedures and escape routes.
  • Create a buddy system in your office or shop so that colleagues have each other's well-being in mind.
  • Have first-aid kits on hand.
  • Be sure emergency telephone numbers are clearly displayed.
  • Be ready for emergencies such as natural disasters.
  • Make somebody responsible for building security and employee health and safety.
  • Install emergency phones in isolated areas such as storage rooms.
  • Be sure you have efficient indoor and outdoor lighting.

Keeping your plant or manufacturing shop safe

In Canada, employers are legally bound to maintain a healthy and safe work environment, particularly when hazardous materials are involved. Here are some of the most common hazards.

  • Cutting machinery that can trap or amputate limbs
  • Forklift trucks that can cause crushing injuries
  • Ovens that can cause burns
  • Vibrating equipment that can cause muscle weakness and pain in fingers, hands and arms
  • Equipment used in confined spaces that can cause hearing problems

Experts should be called in to ensure your facility meets current standards. Detailed information on occupational health and safety and what is required of employers is readily available from a number of sources.

Entrepreneurs should also support healthy lifestyles for employees. Consider holding regular presentations on wellness as well as subsidizing gym memberships, physiotherapy treatments and other health services for your employees. You're much better off investing in these programs than spending money on employee sick leave.

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