Emphasizing workplace safety can show employees they are valued as well as reduce reduce injuries and absenteeism. Employee safety can extend beyond the laws and regulations that most employers consider.
Workplace accident prevention, investigation and reporting system
Sincerely encouraging reporting of accidents provides a clear system for communicating about and correcting causes of accidents. The OSHA handbook is a helpful starting point, once you understand which regulations pertain to your industry. Many sectors have additional sector-specific requirements.
- Encouraging accident reports helps ensure that getting accident victims help is a priority over concerns about worker’s comp rates.
- Reporting can help address ongoing causes of accidents and prevent future accidents.
- Training and education can reduce risk, and regular tracking of employee attendance in training about accident prevention encourages participation and risk-reduction.
- Ensure that managers and other workplace leaders model safety procedures, wearing safety gear, reducing hazards, etc.
- Ensure that scheduling supports employees health and work/life balance to help prevent overwork and stress that can lead to accidents.
Sexual harassment prevention, information, training and reporting system
The foundation of sexual harassment prevention is clear policies, sexual harassment education and procedures for all employees.
- To be effective, reporting systems must ensure no recrimination.
- Educating all employees, not just supervisors, helps ensure prevention and reporting (employees in lower wage positions encounter sexual harassment more often).
- How reporting and consequences are handled can affect future reporting or harassment activities (i.e., decrease/increase fear of recriminations).
Protecting employees – and coworkers – from stalkers and other forms of violence
Providing education, training and resources helps employees and organizations handle issues of violence, stalking and domestic abuse when they arise. Having a plan in place helps employees know what to do if a colleague or member of the public becomes violent or threatening in the workplace (or off-site).
- Education and regular communications on signs of domestic abuse, information on hot lines, and other victim resources can help encourage victims to seek help.
- Greater safety and reporting can be encouraged if your education and communications help to eliminate the stigma of being a victim.
- Workplace policies may help prevent violence and injuries from violence (Are guns allowed in your workplace? Do you have a “chill out” space or anger management resources for workers who need them?).
- Well-lit, well-maintained parking areas can help prevent falls and injuries, theft from vehicles and personal attacks.
- Signage can help prevent non-permitted usage of parking areas.
- Include digital safety in your safety prevention as well as physical and mental safety.
Encouraging reports of unethical activities helps unearth and address violations and can help prevent future violations.
- Providing a clear communication system helps employees know whom to talk to if their direct supervisor is involved.
- Whistleblower Policies can help encourage reporting and prevent recriminations.
Medical, disaster and weather emergency plans
A clear and easy-to-reach emergency plan specifies procedures and expectations for handling unexpected situations. The emergency communications plan should include a variety of communications, to reach all employees regardless of whether they own a phone or computer.
Planning ahead can ensure that these kinds of emergencies have as little negative impact on your workers, business and community. For ideas on what to include in your planning, you can refer to our webpage and webinar on COVID-19.
Also, keep in mind that employees may qualify for unemployment if layoffs or reduced work time results from the emergency.
- Even simple education may help prevent fires (e.g., don’t leave oily rags in the trash; all smoking materials must be extinguished in proper receptacles), and a fire emergency plan ensures that if fires happen, employee safety is a top priority.
- Planning ahead may mean the fire department has keys and/or a map of your building and HVAC systems to reach needed areas more quickly.
- Establishing procedures helps prevent injuries (e.g., a sign-in sheet or an outdoor site designated for staff to meet in an emergency can help prevent leaving someone in the burning building).
- A weather emergency plan lets employees know when the workplace is closed/open during weather events and prevents dangerous, unnecessary travel or unnecessary scheduling of substitute care for dependents when schools/facilities are closed due to weather. The communications for closings may need to include texts, phone trees and other formats to reach all employees, regardless of their access to digital communications.
- Even a simple plan helps provide medical help in a timely fashion (e.g., Where can the ambulance drive up and turn around? Which employees know CPR or first aid? Do all employees know the location(s) of your first aid kits?)
- Educating all employees on first aid can administer first aid more quickly and correctly during emergencies.
- Having a staff safety staff committee can ensure that staff safety is a top priority and that employee concerns and needs are included in executive decision-making.
- Having a staff committee may also encourage employee reporting of unsafe conditions.
- In the event of a disaster, document all your disaster-related expenses to prepare for insurance or disaster-relief funding.