Facility and maintenance managers play important parts in keeping the workplace safe for employees and visitors. But occupational safety programs can quickly become complicated, especially when working across multiple buildings and locations. You need reliable, repeatable systems to share policies and procedures and capture information on accidents. With the right modern facility management software, you can protect people and profits. 

What is occupational safety? 

Because safety is a multidisciplinary field that ties into local, state, and federal laws, it’s hard to have one perfect definition that covers everything. But basically, occupational safety is the collection of theories and practices organizations use to prevent the hazards that cause injury.

Everything from simple guardrails near cutting blades to complex fire suppression systems. Broadly, safety is all the equipment you install and the steps you take to ensure people don’t get hurt.  

And because safety is so important, most countries have governmental agencies in charge of making sure workers stay safe. In America, it’s the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), while Canada has the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). In the United Kingdom, there’s the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

Looking at those names, it’s clear that there’s more than just safety. There’s also health.  

What’s the difference between occupational safety and occupational health?  

While safety is closely tied to preventing accidents, health is broader, and can include everything from prevention of harassment to promotion of mental health and adoption of ergonomic equipment like chairs that prevent lower-back pain. Health can also cover things like programs to help employees quit smoking and start exercising more.   

For example, when a technician works on a piece of equipment, safety includes ensuring they have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and access to relevant information and tools for safe lock-out/tag-out procedures. Health covers ensuring they are not harassed while working and they don’t have to move dangerously heavy objects to complete their tasks.   

What are the benefits of workplace safety procedures?  

There are a million good reasons to have a robust health and safety program in place, and it’s easy to see why by looking at how accidents, even small ones, can quickly snowball into an avalanche of costly problems.  

Imagine a maintenance technician is seriously injured while on the job. What are the immediate and long-term effects? Right away, and most importantly, that tech’s life has changed, possible forever. 

And the organization is looking at multiple additional costs. There could be a lot of expensive downtime during investigations by both internal teams and outside agencies.

Depending on the outcome, there could be OSHA fines or large lawsuits to settle. When you’re back at full production, you need to find and train a replacement technician, which can be hard if your department has a reputation for accidents. Reputational damage can extend to the rest of the organization, too. If the accident caused production delays, there are unhappy customers that the organization needs to win back, often with generous terms and discounts. 

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates for the impact of preventable injuries in 2022 include:  

  • Wage and productivity losses $50.7 billion 
  • Medical expenses $37.6 billion 
  • Administrative expenses of $54.4 billion
  • The total cost of work injuries was $167.0 billion. 

What are examples of common safety mistakes?  

Assuming that “common sense” is common is likely the most common safety mistake. You can’t trust everyone to just know how to do things safely, even when it seems obvious. If you don’t have safety procedures in place as part of a robustly developed, supported, and enforced program, you’re running a high risk for problems.  

Another common problem is treating a near-miss differently than an accident. If someone almost slipped and fell, you should treat that exactly as if they had fallen. Remember, the only reason it was a near-miss instead of an accident was luck, and everyone’s luck runs out eventually.  

Two more common safety problems are failing to track accidents and near-misses and then failing to update your safety standard operating procedures (SOPs). If you’re not tracking problems, it’s impossible to make the right fixes. And if you’re only tracking problems but not using that data to help you make your workplace safer, the result is the same as if you were not tracking at all.  

How can organizations improve workplace safety?  

As part of an organization’s overall health and safety program, the maintenance department can add safety procedures to both general work orders and safety-specific inspections and tasks (PMs).  

Occupational safety scheduling software

For example, when you generate an on-demand work order for a broken cutting blade, you can include steps at the beginning and end of the work order to ensure the tech’s safety. You can add step-by-step instructions on:  

  • Where to find and how to properly use the right PPE  
  • How to securely lock out the equipment  
  • How to clearly tag out the equipment  
  • When to remove the tags and lockouts  
  • How to safely test the equipment after the repairs  

You can also add PMs focused specifically on safety. For example, you should schedule inspections for:  

  • Guardrails  
  • Emergency cut-off switches  
  • Potential fall and tripping hazards  
  • Operator-installed bypasses for safety features  

For that last one, you’re checking to make sure operators have not found ways to get around the built-in safety features on equipment.  

For example, on some presses, there are two buttons that the operator must push at the same time to activate the press, ensuring they have both hands far outside the equipment and that every activation is deliberate. To move more quickly and save time, an operator might intentionally tape or jam one of the buttons.  

How does facility management software support workplace safety?   

Remember, you can make things safer by:  

  • Adding safety steps to on-demand work orders  
  • Scheduling safety-specific inspections and task  
  • Tracking near-misses and accidents  
  • Updating all your safety SOPs as needed  

And a modern facility management platform makes everything faster, more reliable, and just easier. 

Adding safety steps to work orders  

If you’re doing work orders manually, especially with paper, adding steps is both tough and time consuming. And unless you have good handwriting, you’re forcing your techs to either struggle through bad handwriting or skip steps altogether.  

But with modern work order management software, you can build templates that you can then add to new work orders with just a few clicks. Now instead of trying to copy everything over by hand, you just type it out once before being able to add it everywhere you want instantly.  

Scheduling safety-specific inspections and task  

Modern, reliable facility management software makes it easy to generate on-demand work orders and schedule PMs that autogenerate based on time or usage. You can basically set it and forget it because the software does all the remembering for you.  

Occupational safety software

The software makes scheduling and keeping everyone up to date easy with clean, intuitive calendar views. And when you need to make changes and switch around the PMs, it’s as easy as dragging and dropping the PMs to new dates. 

Tracking near-misses and accidents 

The easier it is to collect data, the more likely techs do it. If they have to fill out and hand in a bunch of paperwork by hand, techs are discouraged from reporting near-misses and accidents. But modern software makes it a painless process, and that means you get more and better data on your facility’s safety.  

For example, as soon as there’s a problem, techs can quickly log in and generate an on-demand work order with “work and safety” as the category. You can then use the software to generate reports using that specific category. Finally, you know what’s going wrong and can start to take active steps to fix it.  

Updating all your safety SOPs as needed  

And here’s how the right facility maintenance software solution makes taking active steps easier. With templates, instead of having to go back and update everything by hand, any changes you make then automatically apply to every new on-demand or PM work order.  

You can think of templates like cookie cutters. Every time you use one, you can make a perfect copy. As soon as you update the template, it’s like switching to a new cookie cutter. Now everything matches the new template. 

Enterprise organizations need safety procedures to ensure the well-being of employees and to protect the bottom line. Accidents, even small ones, hurt everything from an organization’s uptime to reputation. The right facility software solution helps by making it easier to add safety steps to work orders and schedule safety-specific PMs.

 

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.