Response time is the period between the occurrence of an accident and the first action taken as a result of it. Response time is important in every workplace, but in the areas of medicine and industry, it can be a matter of life and death. Quick responses to noted hazards may well save the lives of employees by eliminating or correcting dangerous situations that could, if unresolved, result in injury, illness, or death (see Hazards vs Dangers to learn the difference between the two).
Slow response times can also result in financial penalties in the form of lawsuits, higher insurance costs, lost work days, penalties for health and safety violations, OSHA inspections, lower safety ratings, and the workforce's reluctance to stay with your enterprise or to apply for a job with your firm.
Another area of concern is employee morale. If your workers see that reported hazards receive serious, timely responses, it sends the message that you value their safety and that they are important. If, on the other hand, reported hazards are ignored or not responded to quickly, it tells employees and the community that worker health and safety are not a priority. Staff morale suffers and fewer incidents are reported because such reports are largely ignored or even discouraged (find out How to Encourage Employees to Report Workplace Hazards).
Reducing Response Time
Thanks to technology, there are ways to make response times shorter than ever before. Employees responsible for reporting dangerous situations can now file a report using Form 300 right at the scene, using a handheld device. This report goes immediately not just to OSHA but also to all other stakeholders. This mass communication of the incident significantly improves the likelihood of a quick response.
Industry also receives hazard calls. Depending on the nature of the business, these hazards could take the form of accidents involving heavy machinery; chemical spills; machinery malfunctions; explosions; radiation; land, water, or air pollution; or unsafe workplace areas.
Response to a perceived risk can avoid future injuries, illness, or fatalities. The faster the response time, the lower the risk. The clearer the communication, the greater the likelihood of a response to correct the problem.
OSHA's Voluntary Safety and Health Program
OSHA, in an effort to encourage employers and employees to report workplace hazards in a timely fashion, has instituted a streamlined reporting system, the Voluntary Safety and Health Program (VPP). The VPP guidelines encourage:
- Ongoing communication with employees as individuals and as a group regarding safety and health concerns.
- Up to date information about health and safety programs, strategies, and equipment.
- Encouragement for employee involvement in such safety concerns as hazard identification and rating, providing hazard solutions, hazard identification training, and program evaluation.
- Devising efficient ways to report work-site fatalities, injuries, illnesses, incidents, and hazards and to make recommendations for improving those situations.
- Prompt response to reported workplace safety concerns and employee recommendations to improve workplace safety.
In January, 2015, OSHA has implemented a reporting format known as Form 300 in an effort to decrease response time. Form 300 encourages worker participation in the company’s safety program by setting clear guidelines for reporting hazards, workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. OSHA requires companies to report all work-related deaths to them within eight hours. They must report workplace injuries or illnesses that required hospitalizations, amputation, or loss of an eye in twenty-four hours. As mentioned above, Form 300 is an online form that can be completed using handheld devices and, as such, it has significantly reduced the time required to create a report.
Workshops have been organized to demonstrate the use of the new reporting technology. Because these reports are available in real time to all stakeholders, response time has been decreased markedly. Recommendations from individuals and company safety committees are seriously considered and acted upon in a timely fashion.
Having immediate data helps OSHA demonstrate to employees how effective reporting is in curbing work-related injury, illness, and death.
Good communication is vital in every industry. Finding ways to improve communication with your workers is important not just for the increased productivity but also for the health and safety of your employees. With the rapid growth of communications technology, enterprises are finding new, faster, more efficient ways to decrease response time and increase awareness of the importance of timely reporting. Because of their life saving potential, every employer, manager, and supervisor should stay abreast of current technological advances and ask others in their industry how they've improved communication and reduced response times.