Every spring, the United Nations draws fresh attention to workplace safety by commemorating the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2003 to stress prevention of accidents and diseases at work, the day gained more traction amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Global attention to the issue is more than warranted, considering there are roughly 340 million occupational accidents and 160 million work-related illnesses every year, according to ILO data.
This year’s theme is: “Act together to build a positive safety and health culture.” At Unispace, we’re taking this theme to heart by organizing ‘stand-down’ events on project construction sites. During these sessions, teams stop what they’re doing to spend 30 minutes in frank discussion of key safety questions.
Five questions to consider for enhanced workplace safety
The following questions are designed to facilitate conversations that will help employees stay safe wherever they work, whether it’s in the studio, on site, or at home:
- What should you do if you spot a hazard or accident? If an employee spots a slip, trip hazard, or a near-miss incident, there should be a clear and efficient way to alert others, and to report it to the site or office manager.
- What are some safety issues if you work at a desk? It can be easy to let your guards down when working at a desk, but construction workplace risks exist even in the office. Establish clear safety practices like NOT standing on an office chair to get something just out of reach or avoiding rushing through a crowded corridor.
- How can you stay safe while working at height? Explore potential safety measures such as completing assembly work at ground level where possible, using mechanical access, e.g. PECO lifts, or positioning mobile tower scaffolds with safe access and waist-high barriers. If a ladder is the only means of access, then communicate clear safety protocols like requiring certain points of contact and limiting work time to no more than 30 minutes.
- Do you know where the fire escape routes are and where to gather after an emergency evacuation? Make sure teams not only know the answers but carry out practice drills. For home workers, create a checklist for home safety like checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly.
- What would you do if you saw someone acting in an unsafe manner? Talk about the importance of supporting colleagues’ mental and physical health. Every organization will have their own protocol for how to handle sensitive situations, but one general rule of thumb: Don’t assume someone else will notice or take steps to help. Provide your teams with the resources to communicate unsafe behaviors.
Workplace safety begins with dialog, then action
Effective workplace safety programs require ongoing commitment, not just from a team leader perspective, but from every employee and contractor who helps shape your firm. By setting aside time to explore and enhance safety protocols, together, we are doing our part to keep our people, our clients, and the larger community safe, whether at work or at home.