You address all of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) standards: you make sure that safety equipment is supplied and used, warning signs are placed in proper areas, and you regularly brief your employees about the importance of safety . . . yet it still happens. It’s only a matter of time before you have a workplace violation or injury.
What can do you to make sure accidents don’t happen, and if they do, what is the best strategy to get through the ordeal? What about an OSHA violation? Let’s examine the best practices to perform that will save you money and promote the welfare of your entire workforce.
Common Workplace Injuries
Injuries do occur, all of the time. It is estimated that a workplace injury happens in the United States every seven seconds, accounting for close to 5 million injuries per year. Most injuries can be avoided with a few preventative measures which should already be in place due to OSHA mandates. Let’s go through a few of the most common injuries and the best ways to prevent them:
- Provide personal fall protection, clean up hazardous spills and debris, and use markings to ensure that people will not fall into holes and are aware of uneven surfaces.
- Being struck by objects projected in the air by a person or machinery, or from above. Clean up materials that that could become projectiles, post warning signs, and provide protective equipment including hard hats and goggles.
- Getting entangled in machinery. Place barriers and signs around dangerous machinery, train employees on the proper use of equipment, make sure machine guarding is properly in place, and that the machine is anchored properly.
- Make sure all electrical hazards are identified and employees are warned in advance. Train all employees of the proper shut-off procedures of equipment to avoid perilous electrical discharges.
With proper precautions in place and well-informed employees, many common on-the-job injuries can be avoided.
To avoid these injures, impart the notion of “safety first” from a new crew member’s first day. Make sure your onboarding process includes your company’s stance on safety and include safety rules and policies that are set in place by you or OSHA. Take your new hires around the facility and point out warehouse safety signs and what they mean so there is no misunderstanding. Also, make sure that your new employee knows from day one what to do if any injury or accident occurs.
Another way to prevent workplace injuries is to pay attention to employee complaints. If violations occur, your employees are on the front lines and may see more than you do. Ensure that there is a section in the employee handbook on how such complaints will be dealt with, have an impartial investigator thoroughly look into matters, and make sure the employee who made the complaint has ample time to talk to the investigator. If the investigator determines the complaint is valid, detail what the company is going to do to remedy the problem and make sure those steps are carried out.
Other Workplace Hazards
There are other, unseen dangers in the workplace to also keep in mind:
- Noise pollution can be caused by indoor or outdoor machinery or things you have no control over such as an airplane overhead. Noise can cause loss of concentration as well as hearing loss and needs to be reduced if possible.
- Air quality issues include poor moisture control or exposure to harmful chemicals or toxins in the air. Poor air quality is linked to asthma, and asbestos exposure can cause Mesothelioma. OSHA has guidelines in place to prevent mesothelioma in the workplace.
- Water quality problems are caused by poor plumbing systems and improper plumbing materials such as lead pipes. Toxic chemicals can cause an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. This can be prevented by having plumbing properly maintained.
After an Injury or OSHA Citation
It is only a matter of time before you have an injury at work. Despite all of your precautions, it’s eventually going to happen. Here are some steps to take to ensure that your employee is taken care of:
- Make sure you have a protocol in place regarding who is going to take the injured employee for medical treatment and who needs to be notified.
- Examine what happened and make detailed reports to make sure that the incident will be covered by insurance.
- Create countermeasures to ensure that the incident will not happen again.
- Contact and notify OSHA within 24 hours.
- Make sure the employee’s leave is covered by FMLA or permit another form of leave if necessary.
- Look at your current policies and determine whether a change is in order to prevent future injuries.
- Communicate with other workers who may be understandably concerned and anxious about the injury.
Should you also be inspected by OSHA and they cite you for violations, there are steps to follow:
- Post the citation near the place where the violation occurred. According to OSHA, the citation needs to be posted for three days or until the violation is corrected.
- Carefully inspect the citation and its corresponding fees. The fees on the citation are not set in stone and can be reduced provided the violation is corrected and that there are no repeat offenses.
- Correct the problem. The amount of time OSHA gives you to fix the issue will vary depending on the type and severity of the offense, but they usually give thirty days to rectify most situations.
Knowing common workplace injuries and other workplace hazards in addition to making sure your new employees are up-to-par with your safety procedures can go far to preventing injuries in the workplace. Accidents and OSHA violations do, however, happen. Knowing the right steps to take will provide a safer workspace for your employees and save you money on OSHA fines. Keep these procedures in mind when you need them.
About the Author
“Noah Rue is always wondering where his next trip will take him. When he’s not traveling the world, he writes about technology, workplace management, career development, and other interests. Noah also enjoys a good meme from time to time. For more of Noah’s work follow him on Twitter.”