two safety workers looking at a laptop screen

How to address gaps in your workplace safety programs

Author: BLR

From seemingly small slip-ups to major hazards, most worksites have areas prone to hazards. Implementing a safety program doesn’t always happen according to plan, either. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and resources available that can help you address the gaps in your safety program. Use these guidelines to review your program and plan for improvements.

Gap analysis

If you’re not sure why your incident figures, compliance, audit performance or other measurables aren’t what they should be, your first step to take could be conducting a gap analysis. A gap analysis is a review that compares actual and desired performances, and it’ll guide your team as you delve into the specific requirements of each of your major safety goals.

In general, gap analyses involve the following steps:

  1. Identify your future state. This is a detailed description of what your company will look like once you’ve achieved your safety goals.
  2.  Assess your current situation. With each of your main goals, consider how and why your current situation differs from your desired outcomes.
  3. Describe how you’ll bridge your gaps. Brainstorm strategies to address the problems found in step 2.

Behaviors vs. underlying causes

A common pitfall of safety management is to view dangerous behavior as a problem, rather than the cause of an underlying issue. Have employees received proper training? Is their personal protective equipment well-fitted and up to date? Are your “safe” processes and procedures keeping them from doing their jobs? If your workers are non-compliant, you should address these questions to understand why.

Forced implementation

Similarly, think about how your safety program has been implemented. If you mandated change without gathering feedback from all stakeholders involved, don’t be surprised when workers keep on doing things the ways they’ve always done them. A successful safety program may be motivated from the top down, but its particulars will need to come from the ground up.

Fostering a positive workplace safety culture

The best-planned program won’t take effect if your company hasn’t demonstrated a consistent commitment to worker safety. Executives, managers and other top personnel should hold themselves accountable to the same expectations you have for your workers. Employees should also be encouraged to participate in safety committees and toolbox talks, so their concerns are ultimately addressed in the policies and procedures you create. A safety-minded culture takes time to cultivate, but it could be one of your biggest and most important gaps to fill.

Off-the-job injuries

Many safety programs only focus on what goes on in the workplace—a major mistake for companies that want to keep their workers safe and reduce injury-related expenses. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), medically consulted injuries happen roughly three times as often off the job as on, and those injuries still lead to time off and replacements. In fact, the average cost of replacement is 20 percent of an employee’s salary, and absenteeism causes a 19 percent increase in delays. Are you using training, incentives and risk analysis tools to reduce your workers’ off-the-job injuries?

A comprehensive EHS management solution

Implementation problems, off-site injuries and inadequate training and equipment: these are just a few of the myriad problems you may uncover in your gap analysis. However, keeping track of all of your pain points and opportunities for improvement can be a logistical nightmare. One of the hallmark qualities of safe organizations is organization, and the best way to stay organized is to use an electronic system for tracking incidents and near misses. With years of thorough, reliable incident data at your fingertips, you’re well-equipped to troubleshoot any major safety issue.