Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Nov 18, 2021

Understaffed and overworked? Apply these safety measures

Safety and HealthWorkers’ Comp 

How do we keep our employees safe when we’re understaffed and overworked, and our employees are feeling the associated mental and physical fatigue? If you’re like most of Vigilant’s members, you’re feeling the pressure of the times—more work than you have the resources to fulfil, making you feel behind and in “catch-up mode” most of the time. This takes a toll on our psyches and our bodies over time. So how do we keep ourselves and our employees mindful and safe in a fast-paced production environment? Here are some tips to keep in mind during this long and busy season:

  • Stop, observe, and evaluate: We don’t know where we are until we measure where we are. When we’re in “go mode,” we don’t take the time to stop and reflect on what is or isn’t working. Both are important to consider. To make progress and to curb harmful habits, we need to pause and assess the situation. As a starting point, you may want to review injury data, talk with your Vigilant safety professional, or conduct an employee survey.
  • Create easy-to-implement solutions where you see opportunities: If you notice an unusually high rate of injury, try to identify trends. For instance, if you find that injuries are more common during the first three months of employment, start there! Work with your Vigilant safety professional or other trusted partner, along with your supervisors, to implement tactical engagement with new hires. This should start on day one and continue through those first three months until you feel confident in their ability to be a strong safety leader in the company and work more independently.
  • Focusing on new hire safety pays off now and later: Speaking of new hires, we need more of them these days. And when we get them, we want them to succeed, thrive, produce, and be safe for the duration of their career. Invest in training to prevent common causes of injuries. Typical mistakes include failing to maintain machine guards, prevent slips and falls, comply with lockout tagout rules, lift properly, and apply other ergonomic techniques. With proper training, we help to ensure safety for new hires as well as long-term employees. If you can connect them with a lead or supervisor who can mentor them on a regular basis within the first few months, they will develop the skills they need to be safer in the long term.
  • Follow and lead with trends: For our Washington members who participate in our workers’ compensation Retro program, or who use Vigilant for workers’ compensation claims management, additional tools are available. Vigilant captures injury trend data on injury types by frequency and cost. Employers in other states may be able to gather their own data in partnership with your workers’ comp carrier. You can use this data to customize training, supervision, and procedures to proactively prevent injuries and address their root causes. Your Vigilant safety professional is available to help you through this process.
  • Give them a break: It should go without saying that our employees must be given (and take) required breaks throughout the day to recharge and alleviate the fatigue of busy workdays. Self-care (including healthy eating, exercise, drinking plenty of water, and getting good sleep) should be encouraged through company-sponsored events or communications.
  • Celebrate successes and fine-tune: We never really get to “perfect,” do we? We should continually evaluate problem spots but also celebrate our successes! By drawing attention to the good stuff, we encourage employees to continue doing the right thing, and show the rest of the company that we appreciate the results of their hard work. Safety doesn’t have to be a thankless job! Partner with Vigilant to help develop your people into top-level safety leaders and encourage them to build on what they have.

Tips: Being aware that your workers are understaffed and overworked is the easy part. The challenge is to stay alert and ask “how do we stay safe and keep our employees safe?” Using these tips will help you feel more confident in your employees, your supervisors, and your safety culture as you weather this storm.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.