Occasionally, you’ll see a headline on your local news station about someone who tragically lost a limb at a local factory, and is now suing his or her employer for a grand sum. For someone who works in HR, the incident may bring into question the risk this lawsuit poses to the employer, who may or may not be a long-running local establishment. As the story rages on, you may find yourself mulling over two different thoughts: one, how could those in charge be reckless enough to allow this to happen? Two, I hope it never happens to me or my employees!
However, nobody is above reproach. If you find yourself harping especially on that second thought, then maybe it’s time to take a look at the things in your area of work that could cause an employee harm. Improving work safety will keep your workers feeling comfortable, operations running smoothly, and ensure you all have jobs!
Let’s take a closer look at just how to evaluate your workplace risks, and find things that need changing. It can be a hassle at first, but ultimately it could be saving a lot of time, trouble, and even lives if you address it quickly. After all, why do tomorrow what you could do today?
Catering to The Risks of Your Work Environment
Every work environment is different, and thus the dangers of each occupation vary. For instance, the risks a worker faces when they go to work on a construction project are vastly different than the dangers you experience in an office space like Dunder Mifflin. As an HR manager, it’s your job to cater your mindset to your work environment.
This typically starts by recognizing the dangers of machinery used by employees. It’s extremely important that you enlist safeguarding methods to stave off incidents that could result in amputation or another life-altering injury. Educate employees as well to be sure they understand the dangers of such an environment and the dangers of loose jewelry and clothing in these environments.
However, this moves beyond machinery and maintenance jobs. For instance, asbestos poisoning can be found in a variety of fields, from old office spaces to aeronautics fields. Even those who work in the outdoors have to be on the lookout for dangerous wildlife, including animals and plants. The point is that, as an HR professional, knowing firsthand what your employees work with on a daily basis and how it might affect them in the worst possible scenarios is a crucial step toward ensuring they are protected from these dangerous variables.
Setting Up Safety Nets
If you’re not setting up safety nets for your employees, one of the consequences you might be forgetting is potential financial ruin in the wake of a lawsuit. This could come by neglectfully putting employees in danger, but also by not hiring the best talent because you don’t have a reliable and trustworthy safety net in the workplace — and that’s not including the potential for legal recourse from governing bodies, as most industries have strict safety laws depending on the profession. For instance, this year FedEx was ordered to pay someone $5.3 million for mishandling a job injury complaint. Inevitably, workplace injuries happen, and it’s an HR professional’s job to figure out how they can be best prevented.
The most popular kind of protection that places of business establish is workers’ compensation (also known as “workers’ comp”). Workers’ comp is necessary for the wellbeing of employees, but don’t forget that it helps employers as well. While it makes the former feel safer about coming to work, it is put in place to ensure that employers don’t have to deal with reputation-damaging consequences or lawsuits.
Of course, establishing the right kinds of safety regulations for your particular work environment can be a difficult task. What if you miss something? For this reason, some HR teams hire Health Safety specialists to check deeper into these things, including individual job duties and where safety oversights might be occurring before a problem happens. Through their inspection, businesses can better prepare, compile, and implement important safety net programs. Additionally, they sometimes offer prizes and incentives for such a thing, as seen in this rate-based incentive program from 2008 from Walter Scott Energy Center.
Opening the Doors for Communication
As we have already established, it’s HR’s job to be in the know about potential dangers, including allergens. Additionally, it’s their job to listen to employees, hear their concerns, and take action to address them. Employees make a company go round and are the cogs in the machine that allow their peers to pay the bills. More than anyone else, they need to be heard, or else the machine will stop running.
Here are some ways that you can ensure the employees at your place of business are being heard:
- Making time for open, one-on-one discussion while you’re in the office.
- Establishing an HR e-mail inbox designed to take complaints and requests from employees.
- Setting up an anonymous suggestion or concern inbox.
- Making a list of all concerns and bringing them up at scheduled meetings with other HR representatives or company heads.
If you are able to establish an open environment, the attitude of your work environment will be more positive for both employees and employers. After all, studies show that a positive work environment brings out more productivity. The willingness to work with employees to build that environment, including listening to them, protecting them, and serving them, will not only help create a safer work environment but also train and build a team that is equally dedicated to keeping the workplace safe.
Every work environment is different, but the need for safety standards applies to all. To ensure you’re putting the right employee protections in place, speak with your employees, walk a mile in their shoes, understand and address their concerns, and consider the tasks they undertake every day. With the right safety nets and a culture of communication, you’ll foster a work environment that’s both safe and healthy.