Review Your Workplace Safety Policies


By Barbara Weltman,

The law and good business practices require employers to provide a workplace that’s free from safety and health hazards that are known (or should be known). The failure to do so can mean lost productivity and employee dissatisfaction as well as costly lawsuits and government penalties. How do your workplace safety policies measure up?

Protective gear

Certain jobs require protective clothing and equipment to ensure the safety of workers. This gear may be goggles, steel-tipped work boots, or other items, depending on the nature of the job. OSHA has guidance on hazards and solutions.

Employers are required to provide and pay for these items.

Sexual harassment

Federal law doesn’t require you to provide any training to your staff about recognizing and reporting sexual harassment and abuse. Nonetheless, it is highly advisable that you provide such training to protect employees and avoid liability for your company. What’s more, your insurance company may require you to have a sexual harassment policy and do training.

Recently, California greatly expanded its mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. Until now, such training was limited to supervisors and was only imposed on employers with 50 or more employees. Starting in 2020 it applies to employers with 5 or more employees and extends mandatory training to all employees.

Health concerns

You should advise employees about health issues that can impact your business. For example, during the flu season, OSHA advises you reduce all workers’ exposure to the flu virus by reminding employees to get flu shots and using good sense to protect the health of co-workers. For example, encourage employees who are feeling ill to use their sick days rather than come to work and infect others.

OSHA offers guidance on various health concerns for workers. For example, there is informationabout monitoring workers at risk of summertime heat-related illnesses.

Domestic violence

Unfortunately, domestic violence can spill into the workplace. SHRM reports* that 65% of employers don’t have a plan to support victimized employees and provide workplace safety for them. Cornell Law School* has a domestic violence and workplace model policy that you can review and adapt for your purposes.

Practice drills for onsite threats

Fire drills aren’t just for school students. Your business should conduct on a regular basis practice drills to anticipate various emergency situations (e.g., fires, an onsite shooter).

Also, consider offering training for CPR to employees. Be sure to have an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on site and have employees trained on how to use it. The American Red Cross* and various other organizations offer free or low-cost training.

Communicating with your staff

Safety may require you to immediately contact employees to inform them of situations and give instructions for what they should do next. You can reach out to them using various channels (e.g., text messages, voice messages, email). You can automate push notifications with software designed for this purpose.

Reporting to the government

OSHA tracks incidents of workplace accident, illness, and death. This means that employers must keep records and report these incidents (find reporting recordkeeping and requirements here).

Under a final rule designed to protect worker privacy, the Department of Labor eliminated the requirement that employers with 250 or more employees submit certain reports electronically. However, OSHA Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, must still be filed electronically.

Final thought

It makes good business sense to be proactive in protecting your employees from harm to the extent possible. Review your workplace policies now.


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