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Workplace health and safety: Get your RACE on!

Nov 25, 2021 | Health and Safety, HR Canada, Workplace

As workplaces continue to adjust to the “Next Normal”, there are several hurdles that will continue to emerge. Most Leaders (and indeed, most people) already recognize things are not likely to be the same, and Workplace Health and Safety must be adjusted to meet these changes. Among many sayings, “There is nothing more constant than Change”, maybe one that rings so true in this worldwide pandemic and eventual post-pandemic world. Another coined phrase,” . . . with change, comes opportunity” may actually inspire leaders towards moving their businesses ahead of the competition as well as forward of the position their businesses held prior to mid-March, 2020.

The term, RACE, is a phrase common among those familiar with workplace health and safety; RACE is the acronym for Recognize, Assess, Control and Evaluate. Now more than ever, this comes to play as the workplace, community and global environments continue to deal with COVID-19 and related changes in the workplace. Unlike other health and safety factors that may differ between workplaces, this one is common, yet still different. Putting RACE into action for your workplace sets focus on what you have now and face, going forward. Let’s look at each portion/phase of this and break it down into practical terms to allow the aforementioned “constant” and “Change . . . Opportunity” components.

Recognize: Recognizing Workplace Health and Safety

Identify what you are facing relative to where the potential of harm may reside.

Listing each factor and being brutally honest through this process sets you up for success as you proceed and work through all stages of the following phases.

Utilize your workplace resources to assist in identifying impactful factors. Your workers, supervisors and if available, health and safety professionals and/or Human Resources expertise should be engaged to assist.

Your people have great internal knowledge and utilizing their input will allow you to gain tremendous insights into the identified hazards and then again, on each of the remaining phases.

Assess: Assessing Workplace Health and Safety

With each item listed above, gauging the impact through a consistent approach in assigning a “value” as to the impact,  will set your workplace up to establish rankings and those, in turn, will direct focus as to the areas of levels for attention to dealing with the next step.

There are a number of tools that can be employed as part of this stage.

Consideration of the following factors are typically employed:

  • Likelihood – how likely – ranges from rare to almost certain
  • Consequence – degree of outcome – range from negligible to catastrophic
Workplace Health and Safety - Sample Risk Matrix

risk matrix

Control: Controlling Workplace Health and Safety

Here, a structured approach will again drive the outcomes to ultimately deliver net results that favour protection appropriately suited to ensuring protection that best works towards effective and efficient management of identified and assessed hazards. What better outcome, than to properly protect workers, ensure ongoing healthy and safe work, minimize negative impact, and propel a workplace to thrive and compete, as well as demonstrate innovation for future prosperity?

The “Hierarchy of Controls”, controls at:

  • The Source – elimination of the source of hazard/harm
  • Along the Path – physical barriers between the source and the worker
  • At the Worker – PPE (personal protective equipment), procedures, instruction

Moving the control upward (on this list) sets one up for greater, more effective controls and lessens the probability of misses and struggles associated with those listed on the lower levels of the hierarchy of controls.

Evaluate: Evaluating Workplace Health and Safety

As part of this phase, each selected and applied control needs to be gauged as to its effectiveness. Cycling back through the previous phase or phases may likely be applied. As with each previous phase, brutal honesty and transparency are crucial to establishing the best available outcomes.

Internal resources through your workforce will capitalize on your overall success. Approach personnel through mutual support and in the end, the development toward positive results will set everyone up for favourable results.

Along with each of the previous stages, this step is vital and often the most neglected. Without the diligence of application here, overall deficiency of positive health and safety results is likely and often leads leadership to contemplate the inevitable failure and ongoing struggle to successfully compete and succeed.

Periodic cycling through these phases demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvements and perpetuates confidence with everyone within the workplace.

Ultimately, following this approach is deemed to be taking reasonable precautions towards addressing health and safety issues in a proactive manner, averting potentially costly issues, positively impacting overall health and safety and setting the stage for an improved position in your business. On a psychological level, your workforce’s morale is also positively influenced.

Now that you have the foundation to work on your workplace’s RACE to success, this process can easily become “organic” in that it develops into a natural progression from which your competition may very likely wonder, “What happened and how did they get ahead?”

Not only has this pandemic created challenges, but opportunities have also arisen.

Now, where do you see your workplace moving ahead?

Has this (and other opportunities) resulted in making your workplace better than before and positioned you for future success?

Great leaders are inspired by their circumstances and boldly move into where these situations transcend the current state into a future of greater prosperity.  – The RACE is on!

Dan Suess