September, with its anniversary of the 9/11 crisis, always brings office safety to mind. Recently I was reminded that most of us – including me – don’t think enough about proactively preparing to deal with safety at work. Some people are serious about safety. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in Ontario have published a strategy they call the Road to Zero. They’d like zero workplace injuries, illness, and fatalities and are working toward a 35% reduction by 2010. Read more about it at their website at www.wsib.on.ca . Think it sounds too farfetched? The President of Volvo Cars of Canada Corp. said their team’s goal is to have no one killed or injured in a Volvo vehicle in the year 2020. Whether or not you can imagine this, no one could argue that we all should do our part to keep ourselves and others safe. Here are some gentle reminders for leaders and their teams.
1. Ensure people know how to exit wherever they are. Most orientation training programs tell staff the protocol for responding to alarms, and how to exit from their workstations. Staff who’ve been around for longer may have moved offices and not been trained and you could remind them. Don’t overlook those who are in a meeting room, or at another office building. If you chair or facilitate a meeting, make sure you know the safety and evacuation protocols. Even better, take a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to tell people how to leave safely in an emergency.
2. Remind people to indicate if they need help. I’ve just learned the acronym PRA – persons requiring assistance. This designation isn’t as obvious as it first appears, and who it designates can change daily. If you’re training for a 5k run and you sprain your ankle on the weekend, you likely can’t exit by the staircase in an emergency. Don’t be shy. Tell your colleagues that, in an emergency, you are a PRA. Routinely invite others to declare their need for assistance. If you are PRA, take a moment to find out where you are to meet for extra assistance in the event of an emergency.
3. Post safety information in common places. I just saw, for the first time, a safety poster beside a photocopier. It reminds me that copiers are machines that get hot and also that I can hurt my eyes looking into the copier as it works. Familiarity breeds complacency – think about the common machines and areas that could be unsafe, and put up a notice. A small thing, like wiping up coffee or water spills, can make a huge difference. Don’t assume everyone knows what you might consider common courtesy or housekeeping rules.
4. Take care of visitors. If you have a guest in your workplace, even for one meeting, pause and tell them what they need to know. Describe the alarm system sound and tell them if they wait for verbal instructions to exit. Explain special protocols for assisting others. If you have swiped them into the security on your card, ensure they know they’ll need a staff person to exit.
5. Be courteous where health is concerned. Many individuals are suffering from allergies to scent. It’s hard to avoid scented hair and body wash products, and I wouldn’t suggest you give up grooming. Consider going without other scented perfumes during the work day. If no one on the team minds, a customer might. If you wear scents, apply them lightly and don’t reapply during the work day.
6. Little things make a healthy workplace. At WSIB workstations, an automatic screensaver pops up to remind staff of important health and safety tips. It tells you to switch between the mouse and the keypad to rest your body. Get up and stretch every 20 minutes. Adjust your office chair often. Close your eyes for 20 seconds to rest them from the monitor. I’m sure some people find the screensaver annoying, but I find the corporate message encouraging. Take a break and rest a moment during the workday.