As an American employer, you have a legal duty to ensure that your working environment is a safe place for your employees to be, and to do all you can to prevent them from being injured in a work-related accident. There are safety and health rules that you have to follow, some of which are general for every employer, and others that are for specific industries.
The Agencies Concerned With Safety And Health
Workplace safety and health have several agencies and laws relating to it, including:
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) administers the Occupational Safety and Health Act and most privately owned companies are monitored by them.
- The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has responsibility for the safety and health of people working in mines, regardless of the size of the mine, how many employees there are or what is being extracted.
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) relates to the employment of young workers and is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor.
There are several other departments and laws that you may come across if you are looking at safety and health as an employer, and you have to remember that first and foremost, they are there to advise you on making your workplace safe.
There are many things you can do to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries happening in your workplace. But first of all, you need to know what the risks are.
Start by carrying out a risk assessment. This involves going all around your company, considering every piece of furniture, equipment, and flooring to see if they pose any sort of hazard at all. Some employers involve their employees in this process, on the basis that as they are working in the environment, they may be aware of dangers the employer has not spotted. Other companies employ specialists in risk assessments. Whichever you do, it is advisable to write down all the findings and make a note of what you have done to rectify a problem.
This risk assessment can then be used to help you formulate a safety and health policy. This is the rules that all employees must abide by so that they are not a danger to themselves or anyone else.
Machinery And Equipment
Always make sure that any machinery and equipment is in good working order, with safety guards fitted if need be. Some people think this refers just to factory machinery, but there is some office equipment that overexposure to can affect the eyes, such as photocopiers. Regularly maintaining any machinery and equipment is vitally important, but even more crucially, only workers with the proper training should use them. A piece of machinery being used by an untrained person can have fatal consequences.
In fact, faulty equipment could invalidate your insurance cover, which is something that can be explained in more detail by someone like the experts at Next Insurance.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment or clothing that is worn to reduce the possibility of exposure to hazards that could cause injury. This could be protecting employees from dangerous substances or any other danger. It could include gloves, safety glasses, ear protection, safety boots, hard hats, coveralls, respirators or full body suits.
It should always be a good fit, or it might not be as effective. Also, if necessary, the workers should be trained in its proper use. With very few exceptions, it is the responsibility of employers to provide the PPE needed and you have to make sure it is up to the standard required by law. The OSHA site has much more detailed information about PPE and many other items relating to keeping your employees safe while they are at work.
These are not the only things that you can do to reduce the risk of accidents. Making sure walkways are kept free of spillages and obstacles, keeping stairwells well lit and with a secure handrail, and making sure your staff have proper restroom and washing facilities will all help towards the aim of caring for their well-being while they are at work. Then you need to look at the laws for safety and health relating to your industry. Some jobs are more dangerous than others, and there could well be extra rules and regulations for yours.
The one aim of OSHA and the other agencies like them is to reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths that happen in the workplace. They have worked closely with employers on these matters and there has been some improvement over the last few years. However, it still happens too often.
You could find that someone turns up at your premises to carry out a spot check. This will be done without any notice and will be carried out by highly trained safety and health inspectors. If you are found to be in breach of the rules and regulations for your trade or profession, they have the power to make you stop operating until the problems have been rectified.
Apart from the threats of temporary or permanent closure, fines, and penalties, no one wants to be responsible for an employee being seriously hurt or killed. That is why it is so important that you ensure your workplace is a safe place for your workers to be.
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