Proper health and safety practices are critical for every company, no matter the industry. They’re even more essential for small businesses that hire blue-collar workers.
While white-collar workers who operate in traditional office settings or remote environments are prone to certain risks, blue-collar workers face many workplace-related risks while performing their daily duties. On top of that, they’re subject to multiple work environments, including outdoor settings, workshops, warehouses, and more.
As a small business owner, there are many factors to consider when it comes to workplace safety. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide, helping you understand the risks your workers face, how you can train them in health and safety, and how best to create a safe workplace for your talented team.
Blue-collar workers perform labor-intensive jobs, often working with their hands. There are many jobs classified as ‘blue collar’ positions. These positions all require workers who are officially trained, certified, and highly skilled. The skills needed for blue-collar work vary according to the specific occupation these workers operate in regularly. Some typical blue-collar jobs include mining, maintenance, renovation, construction, and assembly.
Regardless of which occupation a blue-collar worker operates in, the line of work comes with real and often highly hazardous physical and health risks. Work-related injuries are a common occurrence, and workplace safety is a top priority. That is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employers to protect their employees from these workplace hazards, ensuring businesses conduct their output in a safe, reliable way that protects everyone involved.
Blue-collar workers across industries and occupations face two main categories of hazards: physical and health-related.
Physical risks include extreme cold or hot temperatures, moving and falling objects, and dangerous machinery. High-intensity lighting, pinching or rolling objects, live electrical connections, sharp edges, and other hazards are also on the list.
Health-related risks include those posed by exposure to unclean air, potentially hazardous chemicals, radiation, and musculoskeletal disorders due to physically intensive labor.
Proper workplace safety practices help to ensure that you minimize your staff’s exposure to these risks. Operating safely also protects your business and your bottom lines. It maintains optimal productivity, reduces absenteeism and sick leave. Plus, your staff will be less likely to claim workers’ compensation for injuries gained on the job. Having the right policies in place can reduce your insurance premiums overall, ultimately helping you save on legal costs.
All blue-collar workers must use the correct precautionary measures to protect themselves from the hazards in their lines of work. OSHA recommends that these workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever necessary. PPE is designed to minimize exposure to a wide range of on-job hazards that could otherwise cause your employees injury.
Depending on the tasks your workers fulfill, you may need to invest in the following:
- Protective gloves
- Protective hearing devices such as muffs and earplugs
- Safety helmets and hard hats
- Full bodysuits
- Respirators and masks
- Appropriate footwear, including foot or shin guards
- Goggles and welding shields to protect their eyes and face
In light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, appropriate PPE extends even further. Business owners should provide their blue-collar workers with surgical-grade face masks and alcohol-based sanitizer to create a safe workplace.
The training required for health and safety will differ according to your industry and your workers’ occupations. It’s crucial to identify the proper courses needed by your team and business at large. Local regulations and laws may also require you to provide your staff with training on specific topics.
To remain compliant, you will need to provide regular health and safety training for staff, particularly those who work at heights. Additionally, you’ll need to complete regular first aid training to enable employees to respond to emergencies based on your unique workplace conditions. Specialized first aid training can prepare workers for emergencies related to chemical exposure, heights, vehicles, hazardous substances, and more.
Blue-collar workers need training plans set in place at work. Training sessions need to be valuable and worth every worker’s time to be effective. Be authentic and genuine with your employees, regardless of the topic you are covering with them. It’s crucial to keep them engaged to reduce the chances of becoming bored and distracted during training sessions. They need to absorb what you’re saying, so keep it engaging.
An excellent way to foster engagement is to ask your staff questions and get them to share real-life experiences that are relevant to the training at hand.
Your health and safety training sessions should follow a basic outline:
- Start with an introduction period where you welcome your employees and clarify why the session is being held.
- Kick things off with an icebreaker to get everyone relaxed and involved.
- Spend time focusing on critical topics, messages, skills, and themes
- Allow your workers to take a break.
- Continue the discussion and keep them engaged by actively involving them in the training session, asking questions, and encouraging participation.
- Close the activity with a Q&A, clarifying any topics that employees may not have fully understood.
It’s important to remember that people learn in different ways. Some people easily understand the theory and written documents, while others respond better to visual or practical approaches. Use different techniques in your training sessions to ensure that every one of your staff members extracts the value they need from the lessons. Focus on your newer employees, making sure you bring them up to speed on the health and safety training your business conducts. They may likely have heard it before, but they must understand the rules and regulations of your business in particular. Get everyone aligned from the get-go to avoid confusion.
Ideas for workplace safety training can come from virtually anywhere in your company. From the workspace and break lounges to parking lots, offices, and even restrooms. Keep track of hazards in these areas keeping a detailed log of:
- Histories of past accidents and injuries
- Places in your company premises that need optimizing for better health and safety
- Ways that you can prevent common injuries and accidents
Encourage your employees to log these incidents by creating easy-to-complete forms for them to fill out. That way, you’ll always be on top of workplace safety.
Your workplace culture is a critical part of your business’s success. All of your employees, including blue-collar workers, want to be happy at their place of employment – and they want to work in a safe environment. The workplace culture needs to be respectful, fulfilling, and motivating to keep your workers happy. Cultivate an environment where everyone plays by the rules, working as a team to create a cohesive, safe space.
Incorporating health and safety into your company culture consistently ensures it becomes part of day-to-day conversations. There are plenty of easy and cost-effective ways to do this.
For example, you could create signs and labels that remind employees to avoid common hazards, like slippery areas or falling hazards. You could also make fun and engaging infographics or posters that educate your employees on how to stay safe on the job.
Another way to encourage good workplace safety practices is to recognize workers who have done something right actively. You could host a Safety Lunch where you bring up examples of staff who cleverly handled risks or avoided potential accidents. Events like this offer praise to your workers and encourage them to keep it up.
Health and safety are essential to your business, your blue-collar workers, and your workplace culture. Invest in training and education to create a safe workplace where your workers can confidently perform their daily work schedules without undue worry.
Improve your policies and strategies continuously by logging incidents and putting strategic measures in place to prevent them from occurring again. It’ll benefit your business in every way, from employee output to retention, satisfaction, and reputation.