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Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Safety Programs 

How to Start Building a World-Class Security Program

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From small brick-and-mortar stores to large multinationals, every company needs to care about workplace safety. But “workplace safety” means different things depending on whether you’re in the US, Canada, the UK, or Europe. It is a broad topic that covers many different aspects of business and security operations, regulated by many different sets of intersecting laws. 

You need to treat workplace safety as a strategic business practice. The effects of your workplace safety program—positive or negative—will have a long-lasting impact on your company’s sustainability. 

However, it takes proper planning to be effective. The last thing you want is to discover a deficiency in your program as an emergency incident unfolds in your workplace. 

So while workplace safety may be a complex topic, your own company’s safety program needs to be straightforward. That is why Real Time Networks has put together this guide, Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Safety Programs. No matter whether you’re designing your program for the first time or looking to update an established one due to organizational changes, this guide will provide you with the foundational understanding you need to get started. 

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Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Safety Programs

Chapter 1

How Workplace Safety Started, and Where It Is Going

The various laws underpinning workplace safety regulations are complex, built up by generation after generation of workers, adding their concerns to what safety programs must address. To future-proof your workplace safety program against changes that might come five, ten years down the road, it helps to know the history of these laws.

Roots in the Industrial Revolution 

The first move towards what we would recognize today as “workplace safety” began during the Industrial Revolution in Europe. This era saw a massive expansion in industrial and factory-based work in many countries. Before long, workers formed unions to demand better working conditions. Eventually, European governments responded by introducing rudimentary employee safety regulations. 

These first regulations were almost always industry-specific, with little consideration for each other. Some of the most-affected industries at the time were: 

1. Agriculture

Agricultural workers with a tractor

Farming and other agricultural work were always dangerous, but the industrialization of agriculture brought on a host of new dangers more rapidly than individual farms or workers could manage. In addition to disease, they now needed to contend with injuries from mechanized farming equipment and handling pesticides and herbicides. 

Fortunately, advances in science and medicine also introduced new protections, and workers began demanding access to them. For example, our understanding of disease expanded rapidly during this era, leading to better treatments and prevention plans. 

Injuries from farming equipment could be treated with newer, more effective medical techniques. And a better understanding of the dangers posed by agricultural chemicals eventually led to better testing and labeling requirements by the twentieth century. 

2. Mining

Mine Workers on a Mining Bulldozer

Yet another dangerous industry was made even more dangerous by introducing new technology: the steam engine into mining. Child labor had long been used in many industries, including mining. But the introduction of the steam engine allowed mine owners to pump water out of deeper and deeper shafts, driving their workers even further underground. 

Underground engine equipment made deep mines even more dangerous. They introduced vibrations into unstable shafts, spewed poisonous and flammable gases, and dislodged rockslides. 

3. Railroads

Railway workers adjusting train tracks

Steam engines also led to the invention of rail transport. Early steam engines might have been slower than their modern counterparts, but they were also less stable. As a result, train wrecks and boiler explosions were common causes of injury and death in the early years. 

Despite those early dangers, railroads multiplied in popularity for transporting both people and freight. But eventually, that popularity made rail accidents too common to ignore. So by the end of the nineteenth century, air brakes, automatic couplers, and handholds were nationally-mandated in both the US and the UK. 

4. Manufacturing

Supervisor on production plant

The Industrial Revolution moved manufacturing from village workshops onto factory floors. This led to a broad range of safety concerns that were not immediately obvious to workers or factory owners. 

Poor ventilation and close quarters led to the rapid spread of disease among workers. Long hours and cluttered workplaces led to fatigue and many accidents and injuries. Following union strikes, the UK government passed the first manufacturing workplace safety law in 1802—the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act. 

Labor laws appeared around the world 

The organization of labor unions and workplace safety standards picked up after World War 1. The International Labour Organization (ILO) spearheaded this movement for many years. It included representatives from nine countries, including the United States, the UK, Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, and Poland. 

The standards pushed by the ILO represented what we would recognize today as the first “modern” labor and safety laws. But by the 1970s, they had become out of date with current health and safety expectations in many western countries. In particular, by the latter half of the twentieth century, it had become evident that industry-by-industry regulation was cumbersome to manage and prone to dangerous inconsistencies. 

Change came quickly in this era, in the US, Canada, and the UK in particular. 

The United StatesOSHA Logo 

The US Federal government formed the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in 1970, tasked with passing, regulating, and maintaining health and safety business standards for the entire country. Notably, OSHA was tasked with managing workplace safety for all workers, regardless of industry. 

CanadaCanadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) Logo 

In 1978 Canada formed its equivalent Federal agency, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). The Canadian government tasked it with pushing for “the advancement of safe and healthy workplaces and preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths.” 

The United KingdomHealth and Safety at Work Act Compliant (HSWA) Logo 

In 1974, the UK passed the first act in a series of strong workplace safety legislation—the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA). This Act lays out the responsibilities of employers for ensuring the safety of their employees and the public. It also sets out the duties individual employees have in maintaining their own and others’ safety. 

The 1990s saw two other significant pieces of workplace safety legislation pass in the UK. The first was the Notification and Marking of Sites Regulations (NAMOS) of 1990. This statute requires companies housing hazardous materials to implement emergency planning measures and notify HSWA and local officials of the quantity and types of materials. 

The second was the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999. These statutes expanded and modernized specific regulations of the HSWA. They also required companies to conduct risk assessments of their workplaces and plan response efforts accordingly. 

So what is Workplace Safety today? 

While the Industrial Revolution is far behind us, today, we’re in the midst of the Digital Revolution, which has brought its own set of safety concerns and solutions. Many more people today work at home, on the road, or in hybrid arrangements. New automated smart technology is now also much more pervasive in the workplace. 

Employees in manufacturing, for example, must work alongside fast-moving robots, use a broad range of smart electronic devices, and often work in cramped or isolated conditions. Workplace safety regulations may not yet have caught up with our modern digital workplace, but fortunately, many technical solutions already have. 


Chapter 2

Industry 4.0 and The Fourth Industrial Revolution

We’re moving into a new era called Industry 4.0—the so-called fourth industrial revolution. This era is defined by further digitizing and integrating information technology into traditional business and manufacturing processes. Businesses will carry out digital transformations, transitioning from traditional, manual processes to new, more efficient ones managed by information technology.

Technology is becoming tightly integrated into all levels of business operations, including workplace safety. In technologically-driven workplaces, twentieth-century manual processes are no longer efficient. In the future, we will see more safety, risk management, and emergency preparedness operations managed by technology.


Chapter 3

A Safety-focused Workplace Improves Employee Performance and Business Outcomes

If you’re reading this guide, then you already understand the importance of workplace safety topics. But different organizations approach this topic from different angles, so each may not fully appreciate the full range of benefits that come with implementing a comprehensive safety program at your workplace. 

A well-constructed workplace safety program can do many things:

1. Reduce risk 

Let’s start with the obvious: a workplace safety program can help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities your organization will face in a given year. Of course, protecting your employees is your top priority, but reducing injuries will also reduce regulatory penalties and civil suit payments you might face. So a strong culture of safety helps protect both your people and your bottom line. 

2. Reduce costs 

Better employee safety reduces more costs than just penalties. There are also damaged equipment you might need to replace, legal fees, as well as indirect costs. In addition, all of the time your personnel spend managing accident investigations are work hours not spent on revenue-generating activities. 

3. Protect your reputation

Your reputation can suffer if word gets out to customers or the press about an accident in your workplace. Preventing those embarrassing accidents can have significant downstream benefits. Unfortunately, some businesses have to learn this the hard way after suffering through a protracted worker’s compensation claim and the resulting bad PR.

4. Improve productivity 

A better environment boosts morale, provides a better sense of psychological safety in the workplace, and keeps workers on the clock. Less turnover and better attendance will keep your company productive. Over time, that increased productivity will add up, driving the growth of your company. 

5. Improve company culture 

A safety-first mindset lets employees know you care about their welfare. Employees trained to pay attention to small details like safety hazards will start paying attention to other small details too. As a result, you’ll boost individual morale and build a broader culture of safety and engagement throughout your organization. 


Chapter 4

Best Practices for Developing an Effective Workplace Safety Program

Navigating the complex regulatory landscape around this topic can be quite tricky. Still, no matter how complicated your organization’s particular health and safety concerns might be, everyone should start designing their program by following a few straightforward workplace safety tips. It does take a little time to set up your own customized safety program, but as we’ve seen, the benefits can be well worth it. 

Here are some best practices everyone should follow as they design a workplace safety program.

1. Coordinate your plan with emergency services 

A workplace safety plan requires coordination among more than just teams at your worksite. If an emergency strikes, you’ll need to ensure you’re working effectively with local emergency services. Include representatives from local medical services, fire departments, and law enforcement in your planning process. 

These representatives will be able to provide input on a broad cross-section of different aspects of your plan. Most importantly, they will likely be able to identify aspects you have overlooked. For example, your evacuation routes might pass near fire hazards. Or your muster points may be too close to your building, endangering staff and interfering with first responders. 

2. Keep your program simple 

Rarely will your staff need to follow safety procedures in a perfectly calm, organized environment. Instead, they’ll likely either need to follow procedures in the middle of a hectic workday, or worst-case scenario, during a full-blown emergency. Focus on your most critical safety priorities. Keep procedures clear and simple so that your staff can still follow them during stressful scenarios. 

Simple doesn’t mean simplistic, though. You still need to make sure your staff carries out every critical task. For example, your evacuation plan might need to include steps to: 

  • Contact emergency services 

  • Shut down critical infrastructure 

  • Evacuate through the safest routes 

  • What to do when you assemble at muster points 

3. Include provisions for all individuals 

Your workplace safety plan needs to cover the safety of more than just your employees. It is for everyone that might be in your facilities. That could also mean contractors, visitors, and temporary employees. 

Your plan should include provisions for protecting individuals who need to work alone in isolated or high-risk locations—security professionals refer to this class of individuals as “lone workers.” 

You also need to account for individuals of varying capabilities and those who might need assistance. For example, make sure your procedures can accommodate individuals with disabilities, older individuals, or those in poor health, such as with asthma or injuries that might limit their mobility. 

4. Thoroughly document all of your policies 

Document everything important about your safety plan. Everyone should be on the same page about what needs to happen day-to-day and during emergencies to stay safe. This policy portion of your safety plan should include: 

  • Essential roles, like health and safety officer and emergency managers 
  • Expectations of employees, supervisors, managers, and executives 
  • Expectations of visitors and other external personnel 
  • Consequences for breaches of the safety plan 

5. Keep the right tools handy 

You should store personal protective equipment (PPE) close to where staff will use them most often. This can create some administrative challenges, but automated storage systems can assist. 

Keep your PPE storage well-stocked with every type of equipment your personnel might need. Those could include: 

  • Boots or shoe covers 
  • Gloves 
  • Safety glasses 
  • Hard hats 
  • Ventilators or respirators 
  • Chemical hoods or suits 


Chapter 5

Document an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

One of the essential components of any workplace safety program is its EAP. A well-thought-out emergency action plan will save lives, reduce injuries, and preserve as much of your business infrastructure as possible. This document should organize every action you want to take when an emergency is declared at your workplace. That could include everything from: 

  • How to identify and declare emergency events 
  • Emergency roles and responsibilities 
  • Emergency shutdown procedures 
  • Evacuation procedures 
  • Muster points 
  • Restoration procedures 

 Let’s discuss a few of those points in more detail. 

Assign emergency managers 

The most essential roles you must assign are your emergency managers. These individuals are responsible for ensuring all procedures in your EAP are carried out in a given area. Emergency managers will report to a senior coordinator during an emergency. This coordinator is usually a security or health and safety professional in your organization. 

Some choose to assign emergency managers team-by-team, others floor-by-floor. How you assign them will depend on the size and layout of your facility. 

Emergency managers will carry out shutdown procedures on critical infrastructure and sweep floors to ensure everyone has evacuated. Then at muster points, they will take roll calls to ensure that everyone is safe and accounted for, provide first aid, and sometimes coordinate with first responders when they show up on site. 

Set evacuation routes and muster points 

Evacuation routes out of your facility must be navigable by people of all physical capabilities. Avoid routes that pass near hazards, such as flammable or poisonous materials, which might become unstable during an emergency and block the route. 

Muster points are where your people will assemble for roll call and first aid after evacuating. These points should be located at a safe distance from your building to protect workers from flying debris and give first responders room to operate. Make sure to assign an emergency manager to each muster point. 

Conduct periodic emergency drills 

We’re calling these “emergency drills” and not evacuation drills because the focus should be on training all aspects of your EAP, not just the evacuation part. Drilling helps emergency managers become familiar with their duties outside of the chaos of an actual emergency. Drills also allow managers to identify any details that your EAP might not have addressed. Employees can practice evacuating, familiarizing themselves with the closest route to their worksite, and identifying any details that might have been overlooked. 

Schedule regular drills at an interval that makes sense for the risk level at your local facility. Use these periodic drills as an opportunity to update your EAP. Ask yourself: 

  • Has the local environment changed? 
  • Are there any new risks we need to plan for? 
  • Has new construction forced us to move muster points? 


Chapter 6

Sample Workplace Safety Planning Checklist

To help with your planning process, here is a high-level workplace safety checklist you can adapt to your organization’s needs. This checklist hits the highlights of everything you need to do to develop a world-class workplace safety program. 

  • Define specific goals for your safety program 
  • Define the metrics you’ll use to measure the success of your program 
  • Assign roles and responsibilities for day-to-day employee safety 
  • Assign roles for emergency scenarios 
  • Produce a written health and safety policy document 
  • Give workers access to the document 
  • Produce supporting documents, including injury logs, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), medical reports, inspection logs, and incident investigation reports 
  • Train workers how to report hazards, illness, and injuries 
  • Schedule periodic workplace inspections 
  • Schedule periodic injury and incident log analyses 
  • Schedule periodic program review meetings among stakeholders to discuss results of the preceding inspections and analyses 




Chapter 7

Sample Workplace Inspection Checklist

There are many items you should check when you conduct those periodic workplace inspections. Here is a sample checklist for a general office environment that you can use as the foundation for developing your own. 

  • Is all necessary safety signage posted and readable? 
  • Is there any loose material, debris, or worn carpeting on the floor? 
  • Are exits and evacuation routes clear and unblocked? 
  • Are stairways well lit? 
  • Do all stairways have the necessary handrails?  
  • Is furniture crowded? 
  • Are exposed wires secured? 
  • Are any chairs in poor condition? 
  • Are desks and chairs at the proper height to avoid ergonomic issues? 
  • Do any desks or cabinets have exposed sharp edges? 
  • Are ladders safe to use? 
  • Is all normal lighting functional? 
  • Are fire extinguishers present and functional? 
  • Is emergency lighting functional? 
  • Are all exterior doors functional and in working order? 
  • Is the HVAC system free of contaminants? 
  • Is humidity within recommended ranges? 
  • Are bathrooms cleaned regularly? 
  • Are food prep areas cleaned regularly? 
  • Are all equipment and consumable materials safely stored? 




Chapter 8

Workplace Safety Technology Solutions

Many different technological solutions are available to help you assemble an effective workplace safety program. Here are some of the options available from Real Time Networks.

Emergency Mustering 

This automated system finds employees fast during emergencies and automatically logs them safe when they reach designated muster points outside your facility. They’re usable both for live drilling and during emergency evacuations. 

These systems use powerful radio frequency identification (RFID) wireless tags to monitor employee locations. RFID sensors record their presence when employees approach muster points and automatically log them safe in a digital roll call. Using these automated systems allows your emergency managers to focus on first aid and coordinating with first responders. 

Emergency mustering systems are effective safety solutions for companies with large or complex facilities. For example, in manufacturing, light and heavy industry, or pharmaceutical production. 

Lone worker tracking 

With this expansion to the mustering system, you can provide workers with tracking bracelets when they will work in isolated conditions. You can set the system to always track certain key workers who regularly work solo, and you can flag other employees as lone workers on-demand. Workers can press an emergency button on their bracelet if they’re in distress. 

An alternative mode allows you to set minimum or maximum occupancy in defined “zones” within your worksite. If too many workers leave, leaving someone else alone, an alert will direct security to that zone. 

Employee and visitor safety 

This system works similarly to the lone worker tracking system. You can configure those different zones within your worksite to only permit specific ID badges. The system will raise an alarm when an ID badge is detected by someone who does not have access rights. 

The system allows visitors to be assigned to their host—like a “buddy system”—and if the visitor and their host become separated, the system will raise an alarm to the appropriate personnel with the visitor’s location. 

Temperature Screening 

This health screening solution is a contactless access control terminal that scans personnel and visitors for elevated body temperatures and face masks when they request entry to your facility. In addition, you can use the system as a contactless access control point with or without temperature screening if that is no longer a concern for your facility.

Chapter 9

Improve Your Workplace Safety by Partnering With a Trusted Service Provider

Maintaining good workplace safety requires careful planning, attention to detail, and persistence. Unfortunately, regulatory fines can eat into your budget if you let your preparedness slide, but worse, you could put your personnel at risk.

Workplace safety planning is easier when you find a reliable business partner who can offer you guidance and provide technological solutions that automate the most challenging aspects of the process. Evaluate each service provider you’re considering working with. 

  • Do they offer the full range of support services you need? 
  • Are they able to engineer their solutions to fit your unique use case? 
  • Will they be available to provide support when a critical system needs attention? 


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