Facility managers are often the unsung heroes of an organization. Their importance cannot be underestimated, especially since the global facilities management market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.36% through 2027.
The facilities manager’s responsibilities are vast – covering everything from building maintenance and inspections to space management and security. Occupational health and safety (OHS) also falls within the scope of facilities management. This article will provide a brief overview of four strategies facility managers can use to ensure employee safety and health.
1. Build a solid foundation
Something as critical as employee health and safety needs a management system with a solid foundation. The facility manager must ensure that the OH&S management system is firmly based on the Deming cycle, also known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act or PDCA cycle. The comprehensiveness and simplicity of PDCA explains its enduring popularity in all industries.
A systematic OSH management system not only ensures the health and safety of workers, it 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 deaths, 180 injuries, and $3 billion in damages and legal settlements. A 2020 investigation into the disaster concluded that a substandard Process Safety Management (PSM) system at the refinery was a leading cause of the horrific explosion.
An even more devastating industrial disaster was the massive explosion that rocked the city of Beirut, Lebanon, in August 2020. The incident caused at least 218 deaths (many of them well outside the port where the explosion occurred), 7,000 injuries and $15 billion in property damage. The main cause of the explosion is the poor storage of explosives and dangerous chemicals.
2. Grow the paper trail
Documentation may be the bane of any facilities manager’s working life, but it offers proof of what has been done and what needs to be done. Consider documenting the paper trail of your OH&S management system. Importantly, it should be the golden thread that connects all components of the OSH system.
Policies and procedures are critical to ensuring the health and safety of workers. Work instructions can inform workers how to perform specific tasks, such as how to safely use an angle grinder in a tool factory or what personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear to limit inhalation of silica dust on a construction site.
It is important that all documentation must be brought in line with the prevailing legal requirements. For example, your organization may need to monitor evolving rules regarding indoor and outdoor workers who may be exposed to hazardous heat, as proposed by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). at the end of 2021
3. Facilitating communication
Health and safety is very personal to every employee, especially those who work in hazardous locations or perform hazardous tasks. Any well-trained and risk-aware employee will know all too well when their health or safety is at risk. Therefore, the facilities manager must help facilitate open communication at all levels of the organization where employees feel free to express opinions and concerns about health and safety.
A great way to open up communication is by encouraging intergenerational communication, so often neglected in the workplace. Different generations may have different health and safety concerns. For example, younger workers may need more practical guidance on safety measures, while older workers may be more concerned about work-related chronic health risks. A millennial facilities manager would do well to remember this when dealing with baby boomers in management and Gen X and Gen Z colleagues and employees.
4. Promote a culture of health and safety
Although corporate culture is so difficult to define, anyone can tell the difference between a great corporate culture and a bad one. Health and safety is no different. Commitments to health and safety must be embedded in the organization, starting at and moving from the very top. In the words of Worksafe Queensland: “For a safety culture to be successful, it must be driven from the top – that is, the safety culture must be embraced and practiced by the CEO and senior managers.”
Mentoring is another excellent way to build 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 the lack of personal growth of some employees. He implemented a successful mentoring program, with an emphasis on cross-functional and cross-national employee matching.
Keep employee health and safety a priority
Facility managers have to juggle many functions. The emergence of smart technologies and post-COVID-19 workplace demands from customers and employees are further complicating managers’ jobs, making them even more complex. But as complex as their workload becomes, protecting the health and safety of their employees remains critical for any facility manager. As well as being a duty of care, it is simply the right thing to do.