Every year, millions of employees file workers’ compensation claims due to workplace incidents. Though workers’ compensation is a no-fault system — meaning workers can file a claim without needing to prove fault — many of the incidents that occur are the result of poor management and a lack of Employee safety.
Though many industries have high safety standards and good leadership to help mitigate accidents, employees continue to get sick and hurt from work performed on the job. In recent years, experts have come together to discuss why this is and what can be done to better address employee safety. They concluded that the issue with workplace health and safety is that it takes a narrow approach, primarily addressing only physical risk factors one at a time.
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Why a Holistic Approach to Employee Safety is Important
NIOSH is not the only organization that believes a holistic approach is better. Many companies and industries are starting to understand that providing a safe environment for their employees is about more than simply addressing physical risks. It’s about seeing workers as human beings with mental and physical needs that must be met to provide a happy and healthy work environment.
This is where the holistic approach steps in. Many people think of medicine when they hear the word “holistic,” which is a whole-body approach that considers mental and physical well-being as well as the internal and external factors that can contribute to a person’s overall health. However, this same approach can be applied to employee safety.
Generally, workplace safety only considers physical hazards and how to avoid them one at a time. In contrast, holistic workplace safety considers all factors that contribute to the employee's physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. It steps outside of the singular focus of physical dangers and takes into account the whole person and their needs.
Holistic Ways to Improve Employee Safety and Wellbeing
An employee’s mental wellbeing is just as important as their physical because how they feel can directly affect their ability to be present, aware, and mindful of their surroundings and what they are doing. Typically, workplace stress is due to a lack of employee appreciation, improper training, lack of clarity, and mental and physical fatigue from being overtasked.
Addressing all of these issues requires a holistic approach to improve the employee's physical and emotional wellbeing. When workers are happier and healthier, they are more aware of their surroundings and thus will be more mindful of the physical hazards and dangers around them.
Address All Threats
To start, employers need to broaden their perspective regarding threats facing their employees. Still address physical hazards, such as dangerous machinery and slip-and-fall risks, but also consider what else might be a concern for your employees. There are other more intangible threats that are not easily seen but are still an issue.
Cyber threats, for example, can put an employee’s personal information at risk. If you are not taking measures to keep their personal data secure, it can put stress on your employees, which can result in a lack of focus and productivity.
Ensure Adequate Training
A lack of training and education can also contribute to workplace stress and accidents. Human resource departments must ensure that employees are adequately trained before they start working with potentially dangerous equipment or navigating other known workplace hazards. Even beyond initial training, it is essential to continually keep employees educated and informed.
Provide a Clutter and Distraction-Free Environment
A clean and clutter-free work environment is good for an employee's physical and mental health. Disorganized and cluttered workspaces are a distraction and have been shown to negatively affect mood and mental health. Ensuring your employees have a clean and organized space to work in can help them stay focused and improve their mental wellbeing.
Use Clear Signage and Directions
Visuals are highly beneficial in the workplace to keep employees aware and informed. Even with proper training, it is easy for workers to let things slip as time goes on or when they are having a busy, stressful day. In some cases, workers may even take risks when they are overly positive or confident about their abilities. Either way, employers should use clear warning signage posted throughout the workplace to remind workers to stay alert and mindful of potential hazards.
It’s also important to keep signs posted about health and safety. Employees have rights when it comes to their health and safety, so keeping signs posted about things like OSHA laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act can help remind them to take care of themselves and speak up if they feel something is being overlooked.
Consider Employee Comfort
Understandably, not all work environments are the same. While there are many ways to make an office more cozy and comfortable for your employees, the same cannot be said for a warehouse or factory setting. Still, employee comfort is a key part of taking a holistic approach to their safety. If an employee’s body is sore or fatigued from strain and being overworked, they are more likely to end up getting hurt or causing an accident.
Consider using ergonomic chairs, standing desks, mats that reduce strain from standing, and other supportive furniture or gear that can help your employees feel more comfortable while working. If the work is strenuous and labor-intensive, offer frequent breaks. Show your employees that their wellbeing matters and encourage them to pay attention to their body’s needs.
Encourage Good Habits Outside the Workplace
No matter how hard you try to make the workplace a safe and positive environment, there will always be outside factors affecting employee well-being. It’s important to acknowledge that your employees have lives outside of work and to encourage them to do what they need to take care of themselves.
If possible, provide programs or access to things that can help make their lives easier, including counseling services or health and wellness services such as massages, acupuncture, gym memberships, and more. If the employee insurance policies cover things like this, make sure they are aware.
Holistic employee safety aims to show your employees that their health and safety come first. Taking steps and measures to provide an overall happier and healthier work environment by prioritizing the wellbeing of your employees shows them that you appreciate their hard work. Productivity levels and safety will naturally improve when your employee's needs are taken care of.