There is no arguing that work related injuries impact work productivity. Being new to a job increases chances of injury due to lack of experience, proper training and information provided that helps protect the employee from harm.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nearly 40 percent of workers injured had been on the job less than a year, proving that new workers are more likely to get hurt.
Reducing work related injuries, not only during the first year on the job, but throughout the employee’s tenure, must be an important goal and responsibility of the business owner. Knowing your rights as an employee, with regard to the employer’s responsibilities to you, is also vital for your protection.
What is the company’s responsibility to new employees? First, a company should be motivated to provide you with harm reduction training and information, because an employee’s safety increases
productivity and profitability. When just one worker is absent or has to be replaced due to injury on the job, both production and profit suffer. Businesses know that days lost on the job impact their bottom line.
Secondly, protecting a company’s most valuable asset, its employees, should be of utmost importance. Therefore, management should be putting in layers of risk reduction protocols to protect their employees. Establishing workplace safety programs by executives and managers is prudent to employee health, well-being, customer satisfaction, reducing Workers Compensation costs, and increasing profitability. With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and provides important guidelines for both employers and employees.
Providing a safe workplace begins with both assessment and training. Businesses should start with conducting a hazard assessment. OSHA recommends that two managers plus two additional employees make up a company’s internal safety committee. This group can conduct the assessment, or a business can bring in a loss control consultant. They should be looking for any areas that could pose a threat to workers on the job. Examples could include slippery floors, unstable equipment, lack equipment guards for amputation risks, lack of proper safety gear, trip hazards, unmarked danger zones, etc. By creating a Safety Action Plan that addresses these hazards, safety goals in the workplace can be achieved.
While each business is unique, and the plan must be created specific to the location and situation, the safety measures should be documented and be in alignment with the risks identified in the hazard assessment. Included should be identifying each problem and providing a solution to address the problem. The company should empower the safety committee or management to be proactive in managing the action plan and ensure it is carried out. In addition, regular and timely evaluations should be continued throughout the year to verify no changes in risk levels have occurred and to make sure elements of the safety plan are still in place.
The next focus should be on training employees. It is imperative to instill in the workforce that safety is the top priority for all employees. When everyone works together and looks after each other, this decreases the risk of exposure to accidents. There are many resources available for training employees on basic safety within a workplace. OSHA provides excellent resources such as this Guide that outlines information on developing and delivering effective training to workers. Quality safety and health training helps prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. Effective training also encourages workers by educating and empowering them to advocate for safer working conditions. The best training programs are accurate, credible, clear and practical.
In Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, it encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs, which OSHA then monitors. It is important to note that OSHA offers an On-site Consultation Program that provides free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high- hazard worksites. Each year, responding to requests from small business owners looking to create or improve their safety and health management programs, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program conducts over 29,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation. Therefore, all businesses have access to help in order to take responsibility for safety.
On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management programs. For more information, to find the local On-site Consultation office in your state, or to request a brochure on Consultation Services, visit www.osha.gov/consultation, or call 1-800- 321-OSHA (6742).
In addition, the OSHA Act’s Section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause, requires employers to provide their workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard and they do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard. However, failure to implement any specific recommendations contained within the document is not, in itself, a violation of the General Duty Clause. Citations can only be based on standards, regulations, and the General Duty Clause.
It is important to understand that workers have rights to a safe workplace environment to include:• Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
• Receipt of information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
• To review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• Filing a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
• Exercising their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
Work related injuries can be decreased and even eliminated with a commitment to safety and utilizing resources provided by OSHA. When accidents do occur, workers should know their rights. You will likely be entitle to lost wages at a percentage of your average weekly wage, medical benefits to pay for your medical care, payment for a permanent impairment.
If you have been injured in the workplace, you may be due compensation. Friedman & Martin would like to provide free consultation to discuss your case. To learn more call call 912-232-8500 or use our form here.