Workplace safety is serious business, regardless of the size of your company. Injured employees not only affect your ability to do business, they also increase your expenses due to time lost and potentially costly litigation.
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In 1971, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act, leading to the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate universal standards in workplace safety. Penalties for failure to comply with OSHA standards can range from a stern warning to a fine of up to $70,000.
The bottom line is that it pays to establish a safe working environment for your employees. But the time to act is now - before an injury occurs or you are cited for a safety violation. With that in mind, here are some common sense things you can do to create a workplace that is safe for your employees and complies with government standards
Know Your Responsibilities
The first step is to know what you are responsible for as an employer. OSHA provides a wealth of information about employer responsibilities at its website www.osha.gov.
While you're there, you might want to order an OSHA safety poster to hang in your workplace. The purpose of the poster is to inform employees about their rights and responsibilities regarding workplace safety. OSHA requires it and you can be penalized for not posting it in a place that is easily accessible to all employees.
Identify Safety Hazards
Knowing your responsibilities is only the first step. You are also expected to proactively identify safety hazards in your workplace and provide remedies where appropriate.
The good news is that you don't have to do this alone. OSHA offers a free safety consultation for small businesses (see the OSHA website for scheduling details). These safety consultations are completely separate from the OSHA inspection process and the findings are anonymous.
Any unsafe conditions discovered during the consultation will not be reported to OSHA staff provided that you make a commitment to fix serious safety hazards in a timely manner.
Employers are required to provide employees with information and education about how to maintain a safe workplace and prevent accidents.
While safety training should be a standard part of new employee orientation, you should also perform regular in-house safety reviews with all of your employees. Additionally, you need to inform your employees how to respond in the event of an emergency.
Keeping a record of injuries that occur in the workplace accomplishes two very important things. First, these records give you the ability to evaluate your safety program and make adjustments when necessary. Secondly, injury records provide documentation in the event that you are sued by an employee or accused of a safety violation by OSHA. Your side of the story will be more believable if you can provide detailed documentation to support your claims.