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Safety and Health Audits Benchmarking for Performance Improvement

What methods do you use to assure that your safety and health programs are moving in the right direction? One method many employers use is the periodic performance of safety and health audits. In doing so, they are benchmarking against:

  • Themselves back to the dates of earlier audits
  • Others in their class of business, and
  • The standards and guidelines which are applicable to their activities.

Why Conduct Workplace Safety Benchmarking?

Workplace safety benchmarking enables employers to assess the well-being of employees and manage problems related to work fatigue, workplace safety and related topics. Conducting workplace safety benchmarking helps ensure that employees remain healthy both mentally and physically within their working environment, and it also promotes a sense of workplace unity. Employees appreciate managers who care about their well-being.

Workplace safety benchmarking also helps companies meet safety regulations, especially in hazardous work environments such as factories and mills. This practice highlights deficiencies in safety and uncovers potential health hazards workers may encounter on the job. With health and safety benchmarking, employers can make progress in areas where employee health and safety have been a problem in the past.

Here are several reasons employers should have regular safety and health audits in the workplace:

  • They aid in establishing better safety and health programs
  • They give managers a snapshot of existing health and safety issues in the workplace
  • They let employers review compliance with new requirements
  • They provide a frame of reference for progress
  • They let employers strategize for better performance
  • Employee productivity and retention will improve

What Are the Relevant Benchmarking Standards?

Having established benchmarking standards in place for assessing employee health and safety at work is a critical component of a company’s longterm success. Safety and health benchmarks help employers track a company’s progress in improving these areas over time. With the many tools and programs company leadership can use to monitor progress in these areas, workplace safety and health conditions can be improved in as little as a few weeks.

There are a number of occupational health and safety management systems against which you can benchmark your performance, including the following:

  • ANSI/AIHA Z10-2005, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems
  • National Safety Council (NSC) 2005, Safety and Health Code of Ethics Resource Guide
  • OHSAS 18001/18002: 2000, Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems
  • OSHA CSP 03-01-003 (TED 8.4), Voluntary Protection Program (VPP): Policies and Procedures Manual, April 18, 2008
  • OSHA Standards for your industry and nature of operations
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Accident and Illness Prevention Program (AIPP) Program Elements
  • Safety and Health Audit Protocols developed specifically by or for your employer.

Why Perform Safety and Health Audits for Benchmarking?

Measuring against established standards and guidelines is a way to promote performance improvement and prevent performance degradation. Rewards are often coupled to this measurement. It is human nature to respond first to that for which you know there is an established measure (performance criteria) and a reward or punishment likely based on your performance.

How Do I Set Up a Benchmarking Plan?

Setting up a benchmark plan only matters when you also create a plan of action for maintaining it. Depending on the size of your workforce and the specific type of work environment you manage, your plan for implementing a health and safety benchmark plan will probably look different than that of the company across the street. But regardless of the type of company and work environment you oversee, every workplace should follow several general guidelines for setting up a benchmarking plan.

Here are some aspects supervisors should consider when setting up a plan for benchmarking performance improvement in their workplace:

  • Consider the size of your employee group. Is the group large enough to represent your organization? Is it small enough to manage well?
  • Set long- and short-term goals. Having a plan for how your benchmarking plan should run over time is essential for its success.
  • Set up a realistic plan. Being too ambitious with your benchmarking goals can get discouraging and eventually lead you to give up on the process.
  • Designate trusted leaders to follow through with implementing the benchmarking process.
  • Establish health and performance criteria that need to be measured, and measure these things consistently.

In addition to setting up a workplace safety benchmarking plan, you also need a plan for maintaining your benchmarking routine:

  • Make sure your benchmarking plan works with busy employees’ schedules.
  • Ensure that management is on board with the idea of workplace safety and health benchmarking.
  • Have a plan for organizing and analyzing benchmark data so you can use it to improve workplace safety and productivity.
  • Take some time to acknowledge benchmarking achievements and celebrate positive changes to keep employees and leadership motivated.

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