How to Prevent Safety Hazards at Work From Causing a Lawsuit
Don't feel like safety hazards at work are a big deal? Add an employee lawsuit to OSHA violation penalties, and you could be looking at closing your doors.
Safety hazards at work come in surprising forms. Workers in some occupations, such as firefighters, expect hazardous work conditions. Other jobs may seem relatively safe, yet the number one on-the-job injury can happen to anyone: overexertion. According to the National Safety Council, overdoing it during lifting, pulling, or carrying activities at work accounted for $13.6 billion in benefit expenses every year.
While some injuries are inevitable and employees may share some of the blame for those injuries, it's ultimately up to employers to create and maintain a safe workspace. This isn't just an opinion, though.
Common Safety Hazards at WorkOSHA lists six types of workplace hazards, and they can happen in any occupation.
- Physical hazards - noise or extreme temperatures
- Chemical & dust hazards - cleaning products, asbestos, solvents, and pesticides
- Ergonomic hazards - repetitive motions, poorly positioned work stations, or lifting
- Biological hazards - mold, bodily fluids, and insect bites
- Safety hazards - blocked emergency exits, spills, electrical hazards, and machinery
- Work organization hazards - workplace violence, harassment, and workload demands
Because every job and workplace is different, the specific policies and safety plans will vary widely. OSHA is a great place to start if you need to update or check on your current level of workplace safety.
5 Ways to Make Your Workplace a Safe One
1. Carry out a workplace risk assessment
You can carry out a risk assessment on your own, or you can ask for a free on-site consultation from OSHA. If you decide to carry out the assessment on your own, it's important to work with employees to identify and minimize hazards. You can use OSHA's Safety and Health Program Audit Tool to help you stay on track.
2. Allow time for breaks
Exhaustion is behind so many workplace injuries, or in the case of office work, mistakes. Don't overload workers with productivity goals and expectations that deny them the opportunity to take breaks and refresh.
3. Schedule safety training
The National Safety Council offers multiple safety training options, from classroom to online or on-site. Likewise, organizations such as the Red Cross offer first aid and CPR training, which can come in handy no matter where you work.
4. Take complaints seriously
Whether it's a complaint of harassment, broken equipment, or unsafe work conditions, take complaints seriously, and don't retaliate against employees who bring these issues to your attention. If you aren't sure how to address an issue, contact your state's department of labor. Arizona, for instance, offers training and consultations, policy information, and business regulations through the Industrial Commission of Arizona.
It's also important to be aware of and prepared for instances of workplace violence. According to the National Safety Council, there are warning signs of violent behavior, such as paranoia, violation of policies, resistance to change, complaining about "unfair treatment," and a sudden change in behavior or job performance.
Put an emergency plan in place and conduct safety training to address potential violence, including active shooter training. Your local police department may be able to conduct training specific to your situation.
5. Follow best practices for safety in your industry
Almost every industry has a set of best practices for reducing safety hazards at work. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has industry best practices for commercial truck and bus safety, for instance, and the American Chemical Society has safety protocols for research laboratories. Check with your industry association to find out if there are similar procedures for your workplace.
Despite doing your best to prevent safety hazards, you still may find yourself with the occasional workplace injury. Pekin Insurance offers a full range of business insurance options, including workers compensation insurance. Contact a local Pekin Insurance agent today to learn more.