Story | 08/15/2022 07:54:40 | 5 min Read time

Prioritising workplace safety in an unstable world

Anu Ahola

Senior Vice President, Operations, UPM Communication Papers

Manufacturing comes with its set of hazards, and controlling those hazards to keep employees safe on the job can be challenging. Each year, nearly three million workers die due to occupational accidents and diseases, and hundreds of millions more suffer non-fatal injuries at work, according to the latest report of the UN agency in the occasion of World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2022.

The disruption caused by COVID-19 catapulted businesses and managers into unknown territories. It has therefore become critical to keep an eye on the future and develop a strong safety culture now, in order to face tomorrow’s challenges.

Everyone Must Be on Board

Workplace safety is extremely important for every industry because employees both desire and are entitled to work in a safe and well protected environment. It is an integral part of any operational system. Ultimately, it is essential for all industries to adapt and prioritise health and safety principles in order to promote the well-being of both employers and employees.

However, ensuring that rules and regulations are followed to protect your workers is sometimes easier said than done. We, as employers, are asking a lot from our workers: they have to place safety first and at the same time, efficiency.

And safety is an everyday job: the bottom line is being relentless in pursuing flawless operations. We all have to follow standard operating procedures that require a great dose of discipline from every worker involved. And everyone must be on board, otherwise it won’t work. We know that if one employee alone doesn’t follow one of the safety rules, it can affect the entire team and potentially have disastrous repercussions on the whole operational chain. That’s why having a great safety culture is so important. 

Building a resilient safety culture within an organisation is one of the biggest challenges which Safety Managers have to contend with, but if you can get your workers on board and actively involved with health and safety, it will not only enable you to meet your legal obligations effectively, but also lower injury and fatality rates and improve employee wellbeing. Prioritising it as a company-wide effort can certainly be an ongoing effort, but it’s a policy that can reap huge rewards and successes when it becomes part of a company’s DNA.

The Importance of A Positive Approach to Safety

The mission is to achieve zero accidents, but I believe it can only happen with a positive approach to safety. Companies have to shift away from a safety culture of blame and avoidance, where workers behave safely only if they’re made to feel like they have to, to a culture where employees are encouraged to take personal ownership over safety and understand the importance of choosing to engage in safe behaviours – A culture where safety practices, observations and innovation in the area of safety is celebrated.

We know that encouraging a positive safety culture starts with strong employee leadership roles, who can then present these practices in a concise and thorough way to ensure all workers apply policies in a consistent way throughout the company. This, in turn, can ensure good industrial relations within a team. It is a group responsibility to help protect our people and environment. By putting good practices in place to manage safety, it will help reduce the number of injuries in the workplace.

The latest UN report on the topic, titled Enhancing social dialogue towards a culture of safety and health, found that during the pandemic, governments that prioritised active participation of employers’ and workers’ organizations in OSH governance, were able to develop and implement emergency laws, policies, and interventions. Collaboration and communication are crucial to ensuring new measures are both acceptable to, and supported by, employers and workers, meaning they are more likely to be effectively implemented in practice. 

At UPM, we actively involve all employees in every aspect of safety with company-wide efforts, but also locally at the mills and offices, where safety is an integral part of the daily work.

Enhancing Organisations’ Resilience

Prioritising safety not only prevents injuries, but also builds morale and improves overall employee health. Many studies show that it also helps attract and recruit the best employees. A good health and safety record is a source of competitive advantage: it attracts partnerships, builds trust in your reputation and brand and secures long-term benefits for you, your business and the wider community.

However, companies need to understand that while success must be celebrated, there is always room for improvement. Putting in place systems for continuous development will not only ensure the safety of employees, but also enhance organisations’ resilience in an unstable world.





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