Workplace Wellness & Security

Facility manager tips: how to promote safety and formulate a response plan

David Spence
April 28th, 2016
workplace safety facility manager

Maintaining workplace safety is one of the most important things you can do as a facility manager. After all, no one wants to work in a place where they don’t feel safe or where they feel like injury is a possibility.

With so many tasks on your daily to-do list, it’s important not to overlook worker health and safety. Luckily, managing health and safety standards doesn’t have to take a lot of additional work. Below, we outline some tips to help you better maintain and promote workplace safety as a facility manager.

1. Hold office safety training sessions

Do your workers know how to use all of the office equipment? Do they know what risks are present in your modern office? This might sound a little ridiculous to some, however most workers don’t realize that something as simple as working a coffee machine or cleaning a printer can harm them.

It’s your responsibility as a facility manager to hold regular meetings to inform employees about any policy changes or any new equipment that’s been added to the office, and to ensure employees are educated about safety procedures. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple reminder to keep your office safe.

It’s also a good idea to use this time to uncover any employee health issues that can be remedied by establishing strong workplace policies. For example, some workers might be allergic to certain plants or foods or even smells, like perfume. Remember, health matters are private and personal, so you’ll need to tread lightly around these topics, yet ensure the issues are addressed.

2. Do routine equipment checks

equipment office facility

Sometimes equipment breaks, and it needs to be maintained on a regular basis, which undoubtedly you already know. You also know, without having an ongoing maintenance procedure, you run the risk of old and outdated equipment causing an injury, or something worse.

Even something as simple as ensuring all of the office lights work will help to prevent an employee from falling down a dimly lit staircase. Also, making sure to check your fire extinguisher on a monthly basis will ensure that you’re prepared in the unlikely event of a fire.

It’s also useful to follow a checklist of safety regulations — that way, you know what’s already accounted for.

3. Encourage certain safety certifications

As workplaces evolve, so do health and safety standards. To keep your office in the clear, it can be helpful to obtain certain safety certifications. Remember, there used to be a time when smoking on airplanes was allowed!

Some certifications might not be mandatory, but they can be beneficial in creating a working environment that’s more attractive to health-conscious workers.

4. Stay up-to-date on the latest practices

safety standards office

Keeping your workplace safe and healthy doesn’t sound cutting edge, but there are still innovations in this space every year. As a facility manager, you’ll need to stay up-to-date on the latest health and safety practices.

Safetey Innovation can be in processes, technology and/or approaches to people, and is helping to solve those ongoing workplace safety issues and keeping employees safe.  For instance, there are many guidelines for what facility managers can do to meet indoor air quality standards for their office. This is done to promote worker health with a safe work environment.

Learn more about the importance and emergence of
Workplace Safety Innovation from OSHA.

5. Get the entire office involved

As a facility manager, you’re always busy. So, recruit other members of your team to help keep up with safety and maintenance protocols. Establish open communication policies that allow workers to report any equipment and health issues right away.

Address worker feedback that’ll help you engineer a safer and more productive office. Sometimes, a simple worker request is enough to provide a new perspective on a glaring problem you overlooked and utilizing systems like OfficeSpace Software, can help you easily manage those simple requests, so you’re able to concentrate on the bigger picture of workplace safety.

Remember, it’s always better to take the proactive approach to company health and safety. Reacting to incidents instead of preventing them will only lead to increased stress and higher company costs in the long run.

By keeping these above tips in mind, you can nurture a supportive and safe office space that will ensure the satisfaction of your workers. After all, a happy and healthy workplace is a productive one as well.

6. Formulate a Bullet-Proof Incident Response Plan

In preparation for your discussion, make sure that you consider the elements listed below. Put them on the meeting agenda!

Qualitative Analysis and Risk Evaluation

Qualitative analysis can be a good starting point for the discussion. Evaluate which assets are the most critical to the company’s operations and what could potentially affect them. These can differ from business to business, but electricity, Internet, and HVAC are generally important to all facilities. Once you’ve done that, consider any worst-case scenarios that could cause any of them to fail. Cyber security threats, natural disasters, security breaches, etc. Is the company prepared with emergency power generators or batteries in case of electrical failure? Discuss the issues that you see occurring from a facilities perspective. Ask participants to explain how they see these risks affecting their own department, and possibly spreading to other departments, as well.

Quantitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis won’t be enough, though. Once you’ve described the possible effects, move into the possible numbers. For everyone to understand the impact of the problems mentioned above, the discussion should include a review of revenue and hours that can be lost. What would the cost be if the company didn’t institute a policy requiring emergency drills to be run on a periodic basis? How many employees would be affected if poor maintenance led to mechanical issues, completely halting the company’s production?

Executive Buy-In

Of course, these numbers will be useful in gaining executive buy-in. If the team finds that the current plan needs updates that will cost the company money, like special training for employees or new equipment, the numbers can help convince executives that these changes are essential. Because what sounds more convincing: “A fire could damage our bottom line” or “A fire could decrease revenue by 36 percent and put 1,200 employees out of work?”

Diverse Perspectives

A range of senior managers from different departments should be invited to the planning. These should include legal, human resources, IT, PR, facilities and maintenance. The range of viewpoints and experiences will help you build a much stronger incident response plan. But don’t stop there. Mary K. Pratt writes on that you should also keep secondary players in mind for your plan, too. “Identify the key suppliers and service groups most likely to play a part during a crisis,” Pratt writes.

Insurance Considerations

Another point to think about: Does the office’s physical surroundings pose any potential threats to business? If so, purchasing special insurance—even for rare occurrences—can be a sharp move. For example, in 1995 Logan International Airport in Boston had the foresight to purchase snow-removal insurance. Because it did, a $400,000 investment resulted in a $2 million return after Boston experienced more than eight feet of snowfall.

Find Vendors

Take the time to speak with different vendors and learn what their process is. Emergency planner Cathy Anthofer encourages asking questions like, “What can the vendor provide in the midst of an emergency? How can a vendor provide those services or those materials or that equipment, despite the fact that the emergency may impact their business, as well?” Connecting with vendors well ahead of the emergency can help you handle the problem much more efficiently.

The Plan

For disaster preparation, every company should have an emergency plan including a list of emergency responders’ numbers and an evacuation strategy. FMs should also have a map showing the location of things like the utility shutoffs, water hydrants, fire extinguishers, etc. If you manage more than one location, be sure to have updated maps for each site so you’ll know exactly how to direct others trying to navigate the area.

Assigned Responsibilities & Staff Participation

Each staff member should understand his or her own role in the disaster response. Otherwise, the results could be costly. Jeffrey Camplin, president of Camplin Environmental Services, Inc. recalls one “case where a contractor was injured during a fire evacuation. The building-management firm was being sued by this individual because the plan was not implemented as designed.” To avoid the same fate, hold training sessions outlining the proper behavior in the face of disaster.

Settling responsibilities ahead of time will prevent confusion and inaction that could make the situation even worse. Joe Brennan, Ohio University’s Executive Director of Communications and Marketing puts it well. “In a crisis, a CIO can’t run around and say, ‘Hey, do I have permission to do this?’ A public relations person can’t run around and say, ‘Who’s going to approve my release?'”

Review and Refine

Hold practice drills to see if there are any hiccups in your plan. The hour of disaster is the worst time to discover any flaws in your evacuation procedure. By practicing ahead of time, you may find logistical issues that you never would have thought of otherwise. Take the time to review and refine your plan every year, to account for changes to the office—new assets, different floor setups, renovated areas, etc.

When preparing for disaster, there’s no such thing as being too cautious. Try to think of every possible scenario that could put the building and its occupants in danger, and decide how you would respond. With any luck, you’ll never have to put your plans in place…but in case you do, you’ll be glad you prepared beforehand.

Incident response plans are a form of insurance that can save the day in the face of disaster. Take the time to go over every possible detail with a team of managers from different departments, using the tips listed above. While it may be a drawn-out process, it could save the company from what could turn into very dark days for everyone involved.

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