Summer is here, but this year it will probably be a little different. Since practically nothing happened for two months, we are now trying to make up for what was lost. However, summer is also a good time to review occupational health and safety processes.

Why now?

Despite the fact that we are trying to make up for what has been lost, summer is still a time where it is a bit calmer and you can analyze what has been done so far and plan for the next six months. Unfortunately, occupational health and safety is an area for which no separate time is generally taken and the deficiencies come up during a visit by a labor inspector or after an accident at work / occupational disease (ptui ptui ptui!). Thus, we prefer to anticipate these situations and dedicate time to reviewing occupational health and safety processes. Then it will be possible to set up efficient and secure processes by the autumn.

Does your OHS process need an efficiency injection?

A very clear sign of the shortcomings of the process is when you discover that a deadline is over or that an employee who has been at work for some time is unsupervised.

Here are a few more points to decide if your occupational health and safety process needs an injection of efficiency:

  1. More than 1 person is responsible for occupational health and safety
  2. Organizing occupational health and safety is someone else’s additional task, which is performed in addition to the main job
  3. Occupational health and safety takes 2-3 hours a week or 4-5 hours a month
  4. More than 1 excel spreadsheet is used for managing occupational health and safety
  5. There is no certainty that all obligations imposed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act have been fulfilled
  6. The documents are in order, but you you have doubts if the working environment itself is
  7. There have been accidents at work in the last 12 months
  8. Documents are scattered in folders, and when you need them quickly, you can’t find them

If you answer more than one point with YES, you should think about improving your companies health and safety process.

How to make OHS processes more efficient?

Let me start by saying that the size of the occupational health and safety process depends on the size, structure, organizational culture, etc. of the company. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when making processes more efficient.

1) Certain people in certain places

Occupational health and safety is not a one-man show, where one person is responsible and active in ensuring that occupational health and safety requirements are met and safety is ensured throughout the organization. We recommend mapping which employees specifically monitor and are responsible for safety. Some thoughts, who could be involved in addition to the work environment specialist:

  • The HR specialist monitors and sends employees for medical examinations
  • Heads of departments carry out safety instructions and issue personal protective equipment
  • Work environment commissioners check first aid equipment and collect observations from employees about dangerous situations

2) Regularity

Schedule a specific time in your week or month where you will review your health and safety processes. By this I mean the following:

  • Are all new employees supervised and, if applicable, have personal protective equipment been issued?
  • Have employees whose medical examinations have expired received a new medical examination date?
  • What hazards have been identified and are they all resolved or in the process of being resolved?

3) Make an annual plan

Each month, put down a specific topic to assess the current situation and try to find solutions to better protect the employee’s health. Some thoughts:

  • Suitability of personal protective equipment
  • Ergonomics for office workers
  • Safety of machinery
  • Safety of moving ways
  • Manual and machine handling of weights
  • First aid equipment
  • Hazard identification, notification and resolution

4) Digitize processes

Nowadays, there is probably no excuse for still producing paper documents. Having been providing occupational health and safety services to companies for about 10 years, I have seen too much of how paper documents have disappeared or been put somewhere in a “safe” place. Therefore, it is necessary to start drafting documents again, which is time consuming and can be expensive. Of course, digitization is not an issue that solves all problems. If done incorrectly, it creates an additional administrative burden and becomes tedious. In order to benefit from digitization, the following principles should be followed:

  • Always prefer one program over several. If there are too many programs, some will inevitably go unused, and therefore digitization will be incomplete and will not serve its purpose.
  • Find out about interface options. If it seems necessary to have several programs, such as a personnel management program and an OHS program, then find out if it is possible to interface with each other to avoid duplication of work. Since both need employees data.
  • All people who are responsible for OHS processes and who should use the new program should be included in the program selection.
  • Before getting acquainted with the programs, find out which needs are important for you. This allows you to narrow down the selection of programs.
  • Take the test period as short as possible and make the most of it. Practice has shown that if you take a 2-week test period, it is ideally used for three to five days, because other days have other obligations. So agree with your colleagues that these 5 days are for testing of the new program. Since the needs have been written out, it is worth testing whether the system covers the needs and everything else is already a bonus. The short time forces all testers to focus on the test period and to form their own opinion about the program.
  • At the end of the test period of each program, make a summary of what you liked and missed and let the program provider know, as most programs also take into account customer feedback.
  • Once a suitable program has been selected, all those involved must be informed. You should explain why there was a need for such a solution and how it will help the company.
  • Since the introduction of the program for the first 6 months, it is worth analyzing every month how the use of the program is going – user activity, problems that have arisen, as well as benefits.

5) Sustainability, innovation and development

Although occupational health and safety is, for many, an area where old-fashioned bureaucracy is being pursued, it is this area that is evolving at an insane rate – new technologies, discoveries, insights, and so on. All of this is worth keeping an eye on and keeping your work processes up to date with innovations.

Of course, it is difficult to be aware of everything yourself. So join different communities where industry-specific information is shared. Some ideas:

Facebook: Work environment specialists (in Estonian)

LinkedIN: Virtual health and safety specialist

Podcast recommendation: https://pod.co/the-hop-nerd

Book recommendation: https://www.amazon.com/Safety-Sucks-Bull-Profession-About-ebook/dp/B0883FQ9BT

I hope that health and safety at work is an issue that will be on your busy calendar this summer, and that new processes can ensure the safety of workers already in the autumn.

If you need help evaluating existing processes and ensuring the effectiveness of help, write me at jaanika@vits.co.

PS! VITS is running a summer campaign. Join us before 31.07.2020 and receive a 50% discount on the monthly fee.

Wishing you a nice summer and be safe!

Jaanika Jelistratov
Founder & CEO of VITS
jaanika@vits.ee

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