3 bad excuses for neglecting workplace safety

Everyone takes shortcuts. In some cases, there are no drawbacks – like that back road you use to get to work and avoid traffic. But cutting corners in other arenas will do you no favors. Workplace safety is one of them: Employees must follow the rules to a letter or risk endangering themselves and others.

Still, the temptation of saved time and effort can be hard to resist. There are many circumstances under which workers avoid their accident prevention responsibilities even though those steps will keep them out of harm's way. As an employer, it's important to recognize a few situations that bring workers to neglect safety.

"During the holidays, employers should be extra sensitive to safe practices."

1. "Gotta rush home for the holidays."
It's that time of year again – everyone is eager to get out of work and head home for the holidays. In their haste, maybe they forget to double-check everything, or leave a piece of equipment turned on, or fail to follow that one safety sign. During these busy times, employers should be extra sensitive to safe practices.

That starts with investing in safety communication, from hazmat signs to company-wide memos and reminders. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration pointed out that a $1 investment in safety can have a $4 to $6 return.

"We encourage employers and workers to give families the best holiday gift by ensuring that all workers are sent home safe and unharmed for the holiday," Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs deputy director Stephanie Comai explained in a 2013 press release. "There is no better way to recognize workers than by protecting their safety through a comprehensive and effective safety plan at every job site. When companies include workplace safety and health in their corporate strategy-they not only protect their workers, they also produce better products and add greater value to our economy."

Workers have no excuse to neglect workplace safety.
Workers have no excuse to neglect workplace safety.

2. "PPE is a pain."
Be honest: Do you wear gloves, eye goggles, hearing protection, steel-toed shoes and thick clothing every time you work on a drill press, use a chainsaw, or perform a similar kind of industrial work? Many don't – which is a fundamental shortcoming in workplace safety. For some, it's just a hassle to don the necessary protective gear each time they undertake the tasks or enter the areas that require it. But that's no excuse. All it takes is one accident to cause a severe injury that might have been prevented through PPE.

On the other hand, some people honestly forget. That's why it's important to post personal protection signs all over the workplace and especially in the areas where such gear is required.

3. "I do it all the time."
Six words employers never want to hear regarding workplace safety. Some employees may be extremely skilled at their craft, may have never had an accident and may be meticulously aware of their surroundings. But those don't excuse them from following safe practices. If anything, those veterans should be held even more accountable than their peers, since they will provide the example for younger or newer workers.

Plus, just because an accident hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't. In fact, according to OSHA statistics, in 2014 more than 14 workers suffered fatal injuries on the job each day. That's not to mention the many more non-fatal injuries that also take place. Accidents find the workplace – if you don't have safety precautions in place, chances are, your organization will suffer some kind of incident eventually.

Let your employees know that there are no shortcuts to workplace safety. Maybe they'll get to leave early for the holiday, but they can't skip their PPE, safety inspections and other regular practices. Always be prepared, communicate safety regularly and never tolerate shortcuts.