An office worker sitting at her desk on her computer next to her hard hat. She is following workplace safety guidelines.
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Workplace safety is an area of HR that we regularly find our small business clients don’t have their arms around.  With everything it takes to run a business and to hire good employees and pay them properly, something has to fall by the wayside, and often, that something ends up being safety.

Some industries have obvious safety hazards, such as construction, mining, and manufacturing.  But all workplaces, including offices, stores, and restaurants, have hazards.

Employers of all sizes are obligated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to provide a safe workplace.  Therefore, depending on the industry you’re in, safety may not be the most critical part of your HR program, but it has to at least be part of it.

But, ultimately, having a safety program isn’t just about complying with the law.  It’s about treating people well and demonstrating to your team that you’ve got their best interest in mind.  It’s one of many things that can set you apart as an employer of choice.

Let’s get started putting together your safety program today!

What’s in it for me?

In case you need some more motivation to implement a safety program, here are a handful of reasons it’s a good idea:

  • Engages employees in sharing the responsibility to keep the workplace safe
  • Increases profits by reducing injuries, resulting in more uptime, and therefore, productivity
  • Improves morale by demonstrating to employees that the organization cares about their welfare
  • Reduces the risks of fines by ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations
  • Limits claim-related increases to workers’ compensation insurance premiums

Employer Obligations

OSHA is the federal law that regulates workplace safety.  Some states have acts of their own, such as MIOSHA here in Michigan.

Employers are responsible for complying with standards, rules, and regulations of the Acts.  Below are a few examples of those responsibilities:

  • Maintain plant and equipment to ensure they’re safe
  • Warn employees of hazards
  • Establish safety procedures, and train employees on them
  • Post the OSHA notice of employee rights and responsibilities
  • Keep records of injury (some employers are exempt from this requirement)
  • Report fatalities and certain serious injuries in a timely manner
  • Post citations and correct issues
  • Pay for personal protective equipment for employees when required by MIOSHA standard
  • Etc.

A Step-by-Step Approach

Putting any new HR program in place can be overwhelming.  Consider implementing a safety program in phases to keep it manageable.

  • Start with the basics

Ensure you have the required postings hung in your facility.  Review your workers’ compensation policy to ensure it’s current.  Identify an occupational health facility.  Create a safety policy that tells employees how to report and get medical attention for injuries.

  • Focus on education and training

Identify the categories of safety issues in your organization, such as trip and fall hazards, hazardous chemical exposure, personal protective equipment needed, etc.  Train all staff on workplace safety.  Make sure the person who will be dealing with workers’ compensation claims is trained on how to handle these situations in a way that properly follows legal standards and records instances properly.

  • Get more people involved

Once the basics and training are in place, consider expanding the program to engage a team of employees in on-going safety education and training and accident prevention.  Institute regular safety inspections to ensure the worksite is maintained over time.

Invest the Time

Getting a safety program up and running isn’t hard, but it does take time.  Carve out a few hours in the coming weeks to understand what your obligations are, as well as to begin to design a program that works for your organization.

By dealing with safety proactively, you’ll save time and money in the future, as well as avoid potentially life-changing injuries for your team.

What other ideas do you have on how small businesses can get started creating a safer workplace?  You can leave your answer in a comment below.

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If there are any topics that you’d like to read more about, please email me directly at jodi@people-mattershr.com.

We’d Love to Help

People Matters supports business owners and leaders in all areas of human resources management including the topic in this article: workplace safety.

HR is what we at People Matters love to do! We help our clients create great workplaces that engage employees and produce better business results.

Please give me a call at 517-925-8257 or visit our website at www.people-mattershr.com for more information.

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