How to create a safe work environment for your employees

Create a culture that addresses three most common areas of risk

How to create a safe work environment for your employees

Ensuring the safety of employees is crucial for any business. If health and safety risks are not addressed, there can be immediate consequences that go beyond employee safety such as legal action, imprisonment, and fines.

The three most common health and safety risks in the workplace include slips and falls, exertion, and workplace harassment or violence, says Wendy Irwin, health and safety consultant at BrightHR Canada.

Slips, trips, and falls

Slips, trips, and falls are considered workplace accidents in Canada, she says. More than 99,000 of these types of injuries are reported as lost time claims in Canada each year (Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada – AWCBC). If an employee falls, slips, or injures themselves at work, it's essential to record the incident immediately. Prevention is key; in fact, under the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, employers have a duty of care to assess risks (including slips and trips) to prevent workplace accidents.

However, even with all the necessary precautions in place, employees can still get hurt. Common causes of accidents include fatigue, distraction, and clutter in the workplace. Canadian health and safety laws require all floors to be appropriate, in good condition, and free from obstruction.

To prevent accidents and ensure staff safety, employers must identify potential hazards that could lead to a serious fall. Using software to record hazards and assess risks can significantly reduce accidents and provide an accurate record to help avoid disputes or claims.

Exertion body injuries

Musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) or disorders (MSDs) are among the leading causes of Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claims in Canada. Employers are required by law to take all reasonable precautions to provide safe and hazard-free workplaces to their employees. This includes addressing the risk factors associated with MSIs.

To prevent these injuries, hazard assessments should be conducted to identify factors contributing to MSIs or MSDs and determine ways to control the associated risks. In addition to risk assessments, it’s also important to provide training for employees on how to properly engage in physical activities; for example, show them the safe way to carry a heavy object.

Employers must remain committed to protecting their employees from exertion-related injuries by continuously monitoring and improving workplace conditions and practices.

By conducting thorough hazard assessments and implementing effective risk control measures, employers can significantly reduce the occurrence of exertion-related injuries and the associated WCB claims and benefit insurance claims. This commitment to employee well-being not only enhances workplace safety but also fosters a healthier and more productive work environment.

Workplace violence, bullying, and harassment

Almost two in three (65%) workers surveyed by Western University, the University of Toronto, and the Canadian Labour Congress experienced at least one behaviour or practice of harassment and violence at work in the past two years. It’s evident that workplace violence and harassment are a significant concern in Canada, says Irwin.

A healthy work environment has a direct impact on workplace productivity and morale. The employer must take all reasonable precautions for the health and safety of their staff. This includes taking steps to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Employers are required by law to establish policies and programs addressing these issues in both provincial and federal jurisdictions. Organizations must display a commitment statement, develop a comprehensive policy that outlines reporting, investigation, and outcomes, and train all employees on the policy and program.

Despite these measures, incidents may still occur, leading to potential WCB claims, company liability, and Occupational Health and Safety inspections. “Employers must remain vigilant and proactive in identifying and addressing any [risks] in the workplace to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all employees,” says Irwin.