Safety checklists are designed to make workers aware of safety hazards in the workplace, as well as remind them of training they received in safe and responsible behavior. These checklists help to ensure that important safety protocols and procedures are not forgotten in the rush to complete work in a timely manner. They're meant to ensure that safety doesn't fall by the wayside.
While many organizations offer guidelines for what to include on safety checklists, they may vary by industry, business type, and even business entities, not to mention jurisdiction. Sample checklists are often generic and need to be modified to fit the particular needs of any business and meet their specific criteria for safety protocols, policies, and procedures.
For example, some businesses may work with heated cooking surfaces while others may have chemicals in a hazmat storage buildings on site. Obviously, different safety checklists will apply to safe behavior in such disparate situations. In short, what applies to one business may not be necessary in another.
That said, there are certain common safety hazards present in nearly any workplace. While common sense may seem to dictate proper behavior, it's always best for employers to leave nothing to the imagination where workplace safety is concerned.
Generic safety checklists from OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and other resources can get you started, but you may find that several common concerns are not directly addressed. Here are a few procedures you may want to add to your own checklist.
Verifying the safe operational status of equipment is not only essential to equipment maintenance, but also to the safety of workers and the work environment in some cases. Most generic safety checklists do not include such information because there are so many different types of equipment found in modern businesses.
You can always ask equipment manufacturers if they provide checklists for inspections. If they don't then you may have to create your own with the help of specialists trained to ensure that equipment is up to spec and safe for use. Such checklists should include line items for all essential parts to be checked before equipment is used.
Companies often assume that safety training is enough to ensure that employees understand specific safety procedures related to business operations. However, most employees are so wrapped up in their own jobs that they may easily forget the training they received days, months, or even years ago.
Refresher courses can help. However, if you want to exercise due diligence when it comes to workplace safety, simply create checklists that reinforce the training employees receive upon hire, or when they are promoted and required to learn new tasks. Otherwise it's all too easy for workers to miss steps, forget training, or take shortcuts.
In the event of an emergency, you probably already have policies and even checklists associated with proper procedures. If, for example, there is a fire or a chemical spill, it may be procedure for all employees to exit the building.
However, it would be helpful to know if anyone has been harmed, incapacitated, or otherwise left behind. You may therefore wish to keep an up-to-date staff list that you can check against employees exiting a facility during an emergency. This way you can inform emergency personnel of whether or not workers are left inside a compromised facility.
You can download and modify generic safety checklists or you make your own, specific to your operations. Either way, you probably focus mainly on the greatest potential hazards, such as safety for chemical storage containers, a hazmat storage buildings, and hazardous storage areas, just for example. You may also include slip-and-fall hazards or heavy equipment safety protocols. This may lead you to overlook less obvious potential safety issues.
For example, ergonomics has become an area of concern over the last several years thanks to increasing cases of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) related to how employees function in the workplace. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that MSDs accounted for an estimated one-third of days away from work, with industries like manufacturing, warehousing, and construction (among others) leading the pack.
OSHA statistics also revealed that worker's compensation costs related to MSDs amount to $15-20 billion annually, paid by businesses. Ergonomics might not seem like an area in which safety checklists are necessary, but with associated costs and business losses mounting, it may be high time to start including ergonomic safety procedures on your company's checklists.