5 Tips for Implementing Successful Workplace Safety Policies

Logical and well-implemented safety policies are the foundation of most healthy company safety cultures. In many ways, your policies are what set the rest of your safety activities in motion. From employee training (“Here are the policies you need to follow”), to internal audits (“Are we acting in accordance with our policies?”) to injury reporting (“Were the relevant safety policies being followed? Can we implement a policy that will prevent similar injuries from occurring in the future?”), your safety policies will be referenced and put to use in many different ways on a daily basis.

It makes sense then to conclude that your company’s overall safety performance will be – in part – the result of how effective you are in introducing new safety policies. With this in mind, here are 5 tips for ensuring that you set your policies up for success!

Think about the objectives or targets you hope to achieve with your policy.

1. Define What Success Looks Like. Simple, right? But it’s amazing how often people skip this important step. Before implementing a new policy, you need to determine exactly what it is that you are looking to achieve. Keep the goals for your policy SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based. For example, if your new policy regulates the use of PPE for hand protection, success may be defined as a 25% reduction in hand injuries within a year.

2. Manage and Document Your Change.  Any new or updated policy introduces a change into the organization. Depending on the significance of the policy and the size of your company, it may be valuable to go through a documented change management process. This will ensure that you have dotted all your I’s and crossed all your T’s before you go live with your new policy. Check out this Management of Change process flow chart to learn more about how to get started. Make sure you don’t skip any crucial steps that could come back to bite you later!

Make sure your safety policy doesn’t end up lost on one of these shelves!

3. Make Your Policy Accessible. Make the new policy readily available to all employees that it will affect. A centralized Document Control system that allows your employees to easily find and reference the most recent version of a safety policy whenever necessary can make all the difference.

4. Communicate Your Policy Effectively & Repetitively. Most experts agree that a person needs to hear new information at least three times for it to really sink into long-term memory. Different people also learn in different ways. Keep this in mind when communicating your policy. Don’t assume that an email introducing the new policy will do it. Can you be sure that everyone affected saw, read and understood that email? If you introduce your policy in a safety meeting, take attendance and allow time for questions. It may seem basic, but with any new policy make sure that affected employees are told the 5 W’s.

When you implement your new policy, be sure to communicate the 5 W’s and give employees a forum to ask their questions and receive necessary clarification.

  • Who will the new policy affect/involve? What roles will different employees be playing in the context of this new policy?
  • What does the new policy involve? Lay out the policy’s content as clearly and concisely as possible.
  • Where does the policy apply? For example, does the policy affect only specific departments/locations, or is it a company-wide policy?
  • When does the new policy come into effect? Immediately? Next quarter? Will any retroactive changes need to be made?
  • Why is the new policy being implemented? Are there new regulations requiring this policy, or specific safety hazards that the policy intends to address?

5. Follow Up. Don’t just introduce a new policy and then let it fall off your radar. If you allow yourself to forget about the policy as soon as it’s been published, odds are that your fellow employees will forget as well! After an appropriate period of time (3-6 months later is typically a good timeframe) check in to see how the policy is doing. This is an opportunity to ask for feedback from employees on how the policy is working in the “real world” and how it might be improved. It may also help you identify if additional training is required.

To hear more about successfully implementing a safety policy, check out the June 27, 2014 edition of Intelex’s  EHS This Week podcast, where we talk about the strategies one company used to launch a successful “No Distracted Driving” policy. And join us weekly for the top headlines and issues affecting the world of environment, health and safety!

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