National Safety Month: Tips for Observing Workplace Safety

The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate and provides a variety of tools and resources that organizations and leaders can use to create safer workplaces.  The organization celebrates June as National Safety Month, making it an appropriate time to pause and take stock of safety practices at work, at home and on the road.

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What is National Safety Month? Why in June?

There are many observance months during the year – and setting June as National Safety Month is particularly well timed. National Safety Month sets aside dedicated time to reflect on and act on workplace safety topics. Here are a few reasons why June is such a good month for this:

  • With most places seeing great weather, and children being out of school, there are increased risks of accidents due to outdoor play and pool time, activities and cookouts.
  • More families are hitting the road for summer vacations, increasing opportunities for vehicle accidents and falls while on travel.
  • Summer Happy Hours after work can heighten the risk of driving accidents, and the informal alcohol-centric environment may aggravate or reveal problems with mental health or addiction.
  • Summer can bring more natural disasters, such as fires, heat waves, flooding from spring showers and the approaching hurricane season in some parts of the country.
  • Shifts in activities can lead to increased stress at work, more distractions and disrupted sleep patterns, which can lead to an uptick in accidents.

This year in particular, as the pandemic appears to be easing, many workers have returned to offices, and the world is opening back up for travel and events.  As people engage in more activities, the risks of accidents increase – making it a good month to pause and reflect on simple steps to keep work and home environments safe.

 

Seven Ways to Celebrate National Safety Month in the Workplace

Here are seven ways to celebrate National Safety Month in your workplace.

  1. Reassess office configurations. Many organizations have been carefully evaluating space needs and layouts to mitigate COVID-19. Protecting employees from contagious diseases through effective ventilation and social distancing layouts has been an important part of that. There has also been a reemphasis on workplace cleanliness and an awareness of the risks of bringing viruses back and forth from home and work.Now, it is time to step back and look at the space through a broader lens of workplace safety. Do workstations support good ergonomics? Is there sufficient space to store things, so boxes of paper aren’t inviting someone to trip?  Is there a clear evacuation path in case of an emergency? Doing an office “walk through” with your team shows them you care about their safety and may also reveal some new creative approaches to space management in our changed world.
  2. Celebrate with safety-related awards. If you have a regular awards or acknowledgement program, or even a regular staff meeting, consider giving small useful gifts that stress the workplace safety theme this month. Examples could include accessories that support hands-free phone use; small first aid kits for home and office; OSHA-approved headphones; or cord management tools or storage solutions that help keep home offices safer. These are practical gifts that demonstrate your commitment to employee safety in a visible and appreciative way.
  3. Openly practice workplace safety. If you a manager, you set the tone on workplace safety. It can be hard to talk about safety in a realistic and objective way that is not overly paternalistic or micromanaging.  Sometimes, it is easier to model your commitment instead – by posting safety information in the workplace, addressing safety hazards in the workplace and sharing that those types of problems have been addressed, or telling your team that you are unable to conduct calls in the car for safety reasons.  It may also include checking in on remote employees before and after an intense storm or local event – caring about their safety IS workplace safety.If your workplace has a lot of physical activity, also celebrate success. For example, for each month that passes without a workplace accident, mark the milestone as an important achievement that no one will want to break next month.
  4. Review safety plans – both office-based and telework. This month is a suitable time to revisit any safety protocols you have in place for emergencies, and to encourage teleworkers to assess their own emergency plans. This includes procedures for reporting in when there has been an emergency or workplace related safety event; evacuation plans from home and office; and a review of safety supplies that people should consider having at work and home
  5. Focus on both physical and mental health. When considering workplace safety, it is easy to just focus on the physical space – taking steps to remove slip-trip-fall hazards or repairing malfunctioning equipment. It is also, however, important to remember overall health and wellness factors that support physical and mental health.Last month, we celebrated Global Employee Health and Fitness Month – continuing those practices will also support workplace safety. If your organization provides services like Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), health club memberships, or mental health services, make sure the access information is easily available online and in the office.
  6. Recheck contact lists. This may seem mundane, but it is a good idea to once a year check on and update contact lists. This includes addresses and contact information for regular teleworkers, emergency contact information and encouraging employees to share any unique medical conditions or needs with their supervisor or a colleague.To respect privacy, if you are a supervisor, be clear on how you will or will not use this information. Here’s an example: “If we don’t hear from you by 1 PM on a regular workday, and you have not told us you are sick or taking leave, we may call your emergency contact to make sure you are OK.”  These ground rules help standardize office reporting schedules and norms, while also protecting employee privacy.
  7. Engage employees in safety planning. As with other recognition months, focusing on a specific topic area can provide a great focal point for a leadership development project. Assigning specific workplace safety projects (such as the need for a specific training or recognition event, or a workplace improvement project) to a cohort of emerging leaders can help you assess and develop their project management and program development skills in a low-risk way – while also addressing an important need in the workplace. This also helps build cultural awareness of the specific topic across the next generation of leadership.

 

Call to Action: Building Your Safety Culture

While June is a great month for annually checking in on safety topics, staying compliant with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and maintaining a safety culture are year-long activities. During the month of June, consider enrolling yourself or your team into one or more of Pryor’s training options in the OSHA and Workplace Safety category.

For example, Pryor offers formal 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA-focused safety courses – both for general industry settings and for specific businesses, such as construction. Human Resource professionals can also learn about compliance with Workers’ Compensation rules and HIPAA requirements.

Additional resources are available in the Pryor Plus OnDemand training library “Workplace Safety Library,” including an Iconographic on 5 Common Safety Hazards in the Workplace, and videos such as “A Manager’s Guide to Safety in the Workplace,” and safety videos on Driving Defensively and Fall Protection.

Pryor’s digital download, Control Chaos and Clear out the Clutter and blog article Health and Wellness: Making Our Workstations Work! can provide useful tips linking safety and wellness in the area of workspace planning and ergonomics.

Bringing these ideas together through actionable applications, Pryor’s Business Blog also has a full category of OSHA and Workplace Safety articles. These include concrete tips related to workplace safety and building a safety culture and updated tips on managing and mitigating COVID-19.

The OSHA website also has resources to help in workplace safety planning. A comprehensive index of safety topics is available – ranging from Fall Protection to Confined Space Management, to Agricultural and Drug-Related Topics, to Recordkeeping. There are also video series on industry-specific topics, and useful fact sheets and posters that you can incorporate into your own training programs and safety outreach activities. For example, a Suicide Prevention poster can signal your commitment to mental health concerns and Fact Sheets on specialized topics can provide targeted reminders for staff.

OSHA resources are free, so combined with Pryor resources, these materials provide useful and visible reminders of workplace safety practices throughout the year.

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