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Monday, May 6, 2013

Providing a safe work environment

            Providing a safe work environment is the responsibility of every employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, requires employers to provide employees with working conditions that are free from known dangers. Most associate OSHA with the physical hazards associated with occupational safety and health issues, which is correct. However, there is more involved than protecting against physical hazards. Who you hire, protecting against workplace violence, and being prepared for acts of violence in the workplace are all components of a safe workplace.
Hiring the right person for the job is the one component that is often overlooked. Why should you do employee screening? The expense of making a bad hire is generally three times the salary of the job in question. One third of all resumes have some lies, so you need to ensure the applicant is who they say they are. Workplace violence amounts to 18% of all crime. Those with a propensity for violence can be discovered before they’re hired. Workplace accidents can be reduced because the applicant was thoroughly vetted and has the skills for the job.  Liability. Employees or others who may be harmed by an under qualified or violent employee can sue the employer.  The safety of all involved is put at risk when the employer does not check into the applicant’s background.
Safe working conditions are always on employer’s minds. The impetus behind the Occupational Health and Safety Act was to prevent workers from being killed or injured while at work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported over 4,000 deaths attributed to workplace injuries in 2011. Private sector injuries had an average of eight days of work missed. Assessments of the workplace are necessary and constant.
Just because a condition was fine today doesn’t mean that conditions will not change. Employees have to know why policies are in place and understand the reasoning behind the policy. They also have to see that management takes safety seriously and practices the safety policies. Employees have to be trained on all machinery. If it is determined that personal protective gear is needed to reduce injury, employees have to be provided the necessary PPE as well as be trained in its use. Whenever there is an incident, the employer should determine the cause, provide solutions, corrections, and retraining so that further exposure to an unsafe condition is removed.
Workplace violence can happen anywhere to any type of business. Whether a disgruntled employee or customer, or the perpetrator chooses your business to commit the act, the possibility has to be considered. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
First, it must be understood that individuals do not “snap”. Studies have shown that individuals who commit acts of workplace violence are set on a pathway to violence well before the act occurs. There are indicators that the person’s life is going off track and these indicators are manifested in daily interactions. Changes in mood or mood swings, becoming introverted, violent outbursts, or other changes in personality may indicate that something is wrong. Talking about violence and threatening others, or property destruction, and strange computer activity may be more indicators. Bear in mind that not one action may indicate that someone is about to act out, but changes should be noted. The decision to act is usually caused by a triggering event. Triggering events are usually a perceived wrong against the person or an attack on their ego, such as loss of financial stability, divorce, loss of promotion, or being overly disciplined.
            Employers should have policies and plans in place to deal with workplace violence. Employees need to feel confident that they can report abnormalities and that action will be taken. They should be trained in how to deal with violent employees and evacuation methods. Security strategies used to prevent crime against the business work well in preparing the environment for acts of violence. Security doors and cameras, clear line sight throughout help identify and prevent against potential threats. Employers should know their employees and be able to identify when something just isn’t right. Simple intervention and counseling early on could prevent acts of violence.
Providing a safe work environment is not just about working conditions. Employers have to take into consideration all the factors of workplace safety: Hiring, Safe conditions, and Workplace violence. Simple prevention strategies, employee training, and response may save lives and keep the employer out of court.

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