How to Ensure Greater Workplace Safety

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.

In Conclusion

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.

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Workplace Safety Standards: What HR Needs to Know

There are many risks in workplaces that can present a serious danger to the well-being of employees. Even in seemingly low-risk positions, these can seriously impact a business, and a serious incident can potentially shutter operations entirely.

According to the International Organization for Standardization, “more than 2.3 million people die each year as a result of workplace injuries and disease.” This doesn’t count the millions of people who sustain non-fatal injuries at work. That being said, workplace safety is important for all employees. Every employee deserves to work in a safe and protected environment — one that reduces costs to the organization and improves safety in the long run.

While most job industries have safety risks, management and HR should devote more time making their work environment safer for everyone. In order to do so, however, both parties need to prioritize employees and take steps that benefit them. This will not only help improve the work environment, but it will also help improve safety standards as well. With that in mind, here are three things company leaders and HR personnel need to keep in mind while developing safety standards:

Recognizing Potential Dangers

When it comes to recognizing the potential dangers ahead of time, it’s important for HR staff to think outside the box. That’s because every industry has potential dangers. Here are a few examples:

  • In the food industry, there’s always the possibility of foodborne illness reaching the public, and in order to prevent this from happening, HR needs to equip kitchen staff members with the right tools. This includes things like stainless steel appliances, cleaning supplies, and proper hygiene standards. These all help limit the growth of bacteria found in kitchen environments.
  • In office work environments, there are many potential risks. In office areas with many workers, walking paths should be cleared of obstructions in order to prevent slip and fall accidents. Further, being physically near many coworkers can make it easier for the flu to spread, which may necessitate sanitation supplies and health advisories.
  • In healthcare facilities, HR must take steps to protect both patients and employees. In addition to the hygiene concerns mentioned above, they must provide a safe work environment by soliciting employees for feedback and listening to workplace complaints concerning potential ethics violations. Everyone needs to be on board; according to Regis College, “full organizational participation — from executives, managers and all staff members — remains the most important factor in upholding a highly ethical workplace culture.”

Another thing that could cause havoc in the workplace is something most people don’t even pay attention to is plumbing. Having access to high-quality water is important, and the last thing you want your employees to do is to drink contaminated water, which could result in illness, lawsuits, and a bad reputation. That being said, HR should ensure that the pipes holding the water aren’t contaminating drinking fountains. By making sure these things are taken care of, HR personnel can provide a safe work environment for employees and guests.

Keeping the Workplace Free of Allergens

Sneezing, wheezing, and watery eyes can leave any employee unfit for work. That’s because nearly 75 percent of all allergy symptoms affect the victim’s eyes. For some jobs, there are environmental triggers that can cause employees to feel discomfort and make it hard to breathe. Look for triggers like:

  • Chemical fumes
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Fragrances
  • Dust
  • Pets

Allergic reactions can make any work environment unpleasant. For HR representatives, making sure the work environment is well ventilated and has a sufficient amount of humidity is extremely important — especially since doing so can reduce the chances of mold. Dusting the workstation regularly may also help.

Closing open windows to eliminate excess pollen, utilizing humidifier, getting HVAC systems regularly cleaned/replaced, establishing a no-pet policy, and checking for food allergies before potlucks can also make the workplace safer for employees. Although some employees may still experience allergies, workplace accidents should cease to exist as long as you take steps to prevent it.

Common Workplace Accidents & Safety Tips

Generally speaking, when people hear the phrase “workers’ compensation,” they typically envision heavy machinery, employees being exposed to harsh chemicals, or potential hazards around every corner. Truthfully, a work-related injury can happen at any time, even from behind a desk. As noted above, slip and fall accidents are a serious concern. When it comes to office jobs, slip, trips and falls account over 30 percent of all personal injuries.

So, what’s something that can cause employees to slip? Any area that has a wet or oily surface can cause employees to slip and fall. This might include break rooms, door entrances, and restrooms. The weather should also be taken into consideration. In other words, if it’s wet outside from either rain or snow, floor mats should be placed near door areas to prevent employees from falling.

What causes employees to trip? A trip may occur when an employee’s view is obstructed. Poor lighting, blocked or cluttered areas, uncovered cables, wrinkled rugs, and uneven walking surfaces may all contribute to an employee falling over. Luckily, these things can be avoided by making sure that work areas are clean, walking surfaces are even, employees are wearing proper shoes, and staff members are paying attention to where they’re going. Employees should also be encouraged to report dangerous (cluttered, obstructed, or damaged) areas to HR. That way, other employees are aware of the situation.

Conclusion

Regardless of the industry, safety should always come first, and it’s up to HR to get employees to contribute to improving workplace safety efforts. This can be done by encouraging employees to become actively involved. If employees are curious, share workplace injury statistics with them. This will help put things into perspective and demonstrate just how serious these events are, no matter the job type. Lastly, be sure to provide some sort of incentive that rewards them for showing great workplace safety behavior.