Promoting Workplace Safety
Workplace safety is and should be a top priority for business owners as they strive to provide a safe and healthy workplace that promotes the well-being of their employees. Understanding and complying with state and federal safety and health guidelines is an important part of this process. In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety & Health Act to protect private employees from unsafe work environments. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) became part of the Department of Labor and workplace injury and fatality statistics have been decreasing ever since.
However, employers need to be wary of how forthcoming they are with an OSHA compliance officer – it's possible to provide too much information as this can lead to a citation. Eric Conn, attorney at Epstein Becker Green in Washington, DC puts it succinctly: "It's important to remember that OSHA is not your friend during an enforcement inspection. They are there to fine and cite violations. Take the process seriously." The #1 mistake employers make during OSHA inspections is thinking that if they tell agency investigators all they know and hand over every document, the organization won't get a citation. In fact, this type of response may result in the employer receiving even more citations.
So, as an employer, how do you avoid spending the afternoon – or two – or three – with an OSHA investigator?
First and foremost, I highly suggest looking into outsourcing to a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) – such as HRi. We are the expert in state and federal workplace safety regulations so that you don't have to be. There are a lot of risk management products and services and we can help you sort through them to find the ones that fit best with your company. They can include:
• Best practice advice before, during, and after emergency situations
• Up-to-date legal and regulatory knowledge
• Best practice for handling accident records and corrective actions
• Sample emergency prep action plans
• Drug-free workplace programs
• Setup and administration of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
• Elimination of year-end worker's compensation audits
• Assistance with claims reporting
Secondly, I recommend adopting the National Safety Council's (NSC) four key pillars to safety excellence:
Leadership and Employee Engagement. Leaders foster a culture where safety is fully integrated in the business and is a core value where all employees are engaged and share responsibility.
Safety Management Systems. A strong safety management system is a framework of processes and procedures to ensure that work tasks are completed safely to achieve objectives.
Risk Reduction. Risk is the combination of the probability of an event and the severity of the injury that may result. Risk is always present in the workplace and those organizations who actively strive to reduce it will outperform those who do not.
Performance Measurement. To manage improvement, it is essential to have measurable goals to track performance, looking at leading and lagging indicators and how they are related.
When fully implemented, NSC's four pillars have significant impact on protecting employees and enhancing organizational performance and profitability.
Creating a comprehensive and continuous process that recognizes and mitigates safety hazards, prepares and protects workers, and records and follows up on incidents is an effective way of managing workplace safety. The importance of safety in business goes beyond compliance. It is an opportunity to engage all employees in a way that prevents harm, enhances productivity and contributes to profitability.