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Making Safety a Priority

The long term reduction of employee accidents has been a real success story. Over the past 40 years, the on-the-job fatality rate for all types of employers has been reduced 80%. However, employee accidents are still a serious concern in government. The average accident rate for all NJ governmental employers is higher than any other major category tracked by the NJ Department of Labor.

How to Reduce Accident Rates

Management can reduce accident rates over time. It is management that establishes the priorities and sets an example. There are five management strategies that make a substantial difference in any organization’s safety record.

  1. Monitor Safety Performance. Managers communicate their priorities by what they monitor. In a recent study, employers where top management closely follows the safety record average 85% fewer accidents than employers where top management is not aware of the accident rate. Of course, simply monitoring the accident rate does not reduce accidents by itself. However, where managers are aware of their safety performance, they are far more likely to make sure the safety program is being conducted properly.
  2. Require all personnel to complete a safety orientation and periodic refresher training. Organizations where all workers are up to date on their safety training average 46% fewer reportable accidents.
  3. Discuss safety with employees at the start of each shift  Organizations where supervisors and crew leaders discuss safety with their associates each morning average 54% fewer accidents. Managers and supervisors have the responsibility to make sure each operation is properly planned and that each employee is reminded of the critical safety procedures required for each day’s activities. A safety program is like a campaign. You need to consistently communicate the message and keep it fresh.
  4. Empower employee involvement in the safety program. Safety must include the grass roots and cannot be solely top down. Management should empower the workforce so that everyone feels free to question something that appears unsafe, and everyone looks out for each other. Every employee has the right to stop an operation if something does not seem right. This involves a profound change in management/employee relations.
  5. Become directly involved in accident investigations. When we say “participate”, we do not mean simply read the reports – we mean get involved – go to the scene where the accident occurred and drill down until the real causes are identified.

The single most important thing any official can do is to place the safety program on the discussion agenda each month and request management report on the program’s status. Officials are responsible to establish priorities. The management team and workforce will adjust their priorities based on what officials decide to monitor.

Model Safety Policy

The (employer name) will provide a safe and healthy work environment and shall comply with all applicable safety and health regulations. The (employer entity) is equally concerned about the safety of the public. Consistent with this policy, employees will receive periodic safety training and will be provided with appropriate safety equipment. Employees are responsible for observing safety rules and using available safety devices including personal protective equipment. Failure to do so constitutes grounds for disciplinary action. Any unsafe condition, practice, procedure or act must be immediately reported to the supervisor or department head. Any on-the-job accident or accident involving (employer entity) facilities, equipment or motor vehicles must also be immediately reported. The (employer name) has appointed a Safety Committee that meets on a regular basis to recommend solutions to safety problems. Employees are encouraged to discuss safety concerns with their Safety Committee representative.