Protect Your Employees’ Health and Safety

Strategies for facility managers to follow such as using the PDCA Cycle


Facility managers are often the unsung heroes of an organization. Their importance cannot be underestimated, especially since the global facility management market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.36% by 2027.

A facility manager’s responsibilities are immense—encompassing everything from building maintenance and inspections to space management and security. Occupational health and safety (OHS) also falls within the facility management domain. This article will provide a brief insight into four strategies facility managers can use to ensure the employee safety and health.

1. Build a solid foundation

Something as critical as the health and safety of employees needs a management system with a solid foundation. A facility manager must ensure that an OHS management system is firmly based on the Deming Cycle, otherwise known as Plan-Do-Check-Act, or the PDCA Cycle. The comprehensiveness and simplicity of PDCA explains its enduring popularity across all industries.

A systematic OHS management system not only ensures worker health and safety but can also be the difference between life and death. Numerous industrial disasters have occurred due to poor health and safety standards, including the massive explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas in 2005, which resulted in 15 fatalities, 180 injured, and US$3 billion in damages and legal settlements. A 2020 study of the disaster concluded that a leading reason for the horrific explosion was the sub-standard Process Safety Management (PSM) system in place at the refinery.

An even more devastating industrial disaster was the enormous explosion that rocked the city of Beirut, Lebanon, in August 2020. The incident caused at least 218 deaths (many of them well beyond the port where the explosion occurred), 7,000 injuries, and $15 billion in property damage. A leading cause of the explosion was the poor storage of explosives and hazardous chemicals.

2. Grow the paper trail

Documentation may be the bane of any facility manager’s working life, but it offers proof of what’s been done and needs to be done. Consider documentation the paper trail of your OHS management system. Importantly, it should be the golden thread that links all components of an OHS system.

Policies and procedures are critical in ensuring worker health and safety. Work instructions can inform workers how to perform specific tasks, such as how to safely use an angle grinder in a tool-making factory or what personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear to limit the inhalation of silica dust on a construction site.

Importantly, all documentation needs to be aligned with prevailing legal requirements. For example, your organization may need to keep track of evolving rules regarding indoor and outdoor workers who may be exposed to hazardous heat, as proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in late 2021.

3. Facilitate communication

Health and safety are very personal for any employee, especially those who work in hazardous locations or undertake hazardous tasks. Any well-trained and risk-savvy employee will know all too well when their health or safety is at risk. That is why a facility manager must help facilitate open communication at all levels of an organization, one in which employees feel free to voice opinions and concerns regarding health and safety.

An excellent way of opening up communication is by fostering inter-generational communication, so often overlooked in workplaces. Different generations may have different health and safety concerns. For example, younger workers may require more hands-on guidance regarding safety measures, whereas older workers may be more concerned about work-related chronic health risks. A millennial facility manager will do well to remember that when dealing with baby boomers in management and Generation X and Generation Z colleagues and employees.

4. Foster a health and safety culture

Although corporate culture is so difficult to pinpoint, anyone can tell the difference between great corporate culture and a lousy one. Health and safety are no different. Commitments to health and safety must be embedded within the organization, starting at and driven from the very top. In the words of Worksafe Queensland: “For a safety culture to be successful it needs to be led from the top—that is, safety culture needs to be embraced and practiced by the CEO and senior managers.”

Mentoring is another excellent way of building a health and safety culture based on communication and mutual trust, as well as personal development. Novartis, the American-Swiss pharmaceutical giant, was concerned about a lack of personal growth for certain employees. It implemented a successful mentoring program, with an emphasis on cross-functional and cross-country pairing of employees.

Keep employee health and safety a priority

Facility managers must juggle many functions. The advent of smart technology and post-COVID-19 workplace demands by clients and employees further complicate managers’ work, making it even more complex. But no matter how complicated their workload becomes, the protection of their employees’ health and safety remains critical for any facility manager. Beyond being a duty of care, it is simply the right thing to do.

Posted On August 22, 2022

Bryan Christiansen

Founder and CEO, Limble CMMS

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their facility maintenance operations. Email [email protected] for more information.


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