When employees come to work, there is a degree of expectation that they will be safe in your workplace. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes on the first page of their website that “under federal law, you are entitled to a safe workplace. Your employer must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards.”
There are certain safety commonalities that every business should be aware of and abide by. Below is a simple checklist an HR pro can use to assess – and address – workplace safety hazards in the office.
- Employees should be trained in a language that they understand: If an employee only has weak English skills, it seems unfair to provide complex teaching on rules and risks that may have dire consequences should they be misunderstood. If a translator is not available to provide teaching, offer materials in their native language and provide someone who can answer questions in their native tongue.
- Perform required services on all workplace equipment and machinery: Failure to inspect – and perform maintenance on equipment you expect workers to use could certainly lead to serious injury and land you on the receiving end of a pretty big lawsuit.
- Provide the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, face masks, harnesses, and any other devices or clothing that ensures the safety of employees.
- Provide protection from toxic chemicals, either with stationary barriers (such as protective hoods or splash screens) or through PPEs that employees wear.
- Perform an audit of workplace injuries and illnesses to help identify weaknesses in your current health and safety protocol.
- Request that an OSHA representative – or similarly skilled workplace safety expert, such as our safety manager– comes out and completes an inspection (and take heed of what they said and make an action plan for correcting any problems and shoring up safety where it may now be lacking).
- Request that an electrician come out to your place of business and evaluate the electrical components, wiring methods, components and electrical equipment. Electrical issues are one of the Top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations.
- Have a system for communicating workplace safety and protections to employees, including regular employee trainings, coverage in the employee handbook, and signage in employee common areas.
- Create and keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses if your business has more than 10 employees. These records must be kept for at least five years and a summary of all injuries and illnesses reported in the previous year must be posted publicly each February.
- Create a system to ensure that you are able to report any worker fatality within 8 hours and any amputation, loss of an eye, or hospitalization of a worker within 24 hours. You have a number of options to get this done, but the easiest is to go ahead and call your regional OSHA office.
- Create a formal “return to work” program for employees that have been previously seriously injured on the job that includes working collaboratively with the employee to identify – and address – potential roadblocks to returning to work, as well as make accommodations where possible to smooth the transition, such as making changes to the physical work environment or offering “light duty” assignments.
A sit-down with a professional safety manager can help you create and execute a plan to ensure the well-being of all employees.