How can Employers Create a Safe Work Environment?February 3, 2021
Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment that is free of any hazards that can jeopardize workers’ health and safety. That means identifying hazardous work conditions and taking the necessary steps to have them removed, making sure that workers are properly trained, proving workers with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and creating a culture in which employees can report hazardous work conditions without fear of reprisal. A safe workplace begins with strong leadership. Managers and supervisors can establish a culture that prioritizes safety and inspires workers to be safety conscious at all times. However, if a worker is injured while on the job, he or she will likely be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Injured workers are encouraged to contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer for assistance.
Which Occupations are Most Associated with Work-Related Injuries?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certain occupations are at greater risk of serious workplace accidents than others. The following are the most dangerous occupations that have the most work-related injuries and illnesses:
- Health care
- Retail trade
- Accommodation and food service
- Transportation and warehousing
- Wholesale trade
- Administrative and waste services
What are Some Examples of Safety Hazards in the Workplace?
Accidents can happen, even in work environments where employers have established a culture that prioritizes safety. However, accidents are more likely to occur when safety protocols are not followed, employees are not properly trained, and careless mistakes are made. The following are examples of common types of safety hazards in the workplace:
- Slips, trips, and falls: These are caused by factors such as spills, electrical wiring on the floor, or a lack of fall protection.
- Getting caught in or struck by a piece of machinery, or another heavy object: These occur when machinery malfunctions, or an employee is injured by a machine’s moving parts because of a lack of protective guards.
- Fires and explosions: These can occur when materials are improperly labeled or are not stored correctly.
- Car accidents and other vehicle-related accidents: Lack of training and poor road conditions can increase the risk of vehicle accidents.
- Confined spaces: A lack of oxygen, too much oxygen, and exposure to toxic fumes are potential hazards in confined spaces.
- Workplace violence: Violence in the workplace is a growing problem, particularly among health care workers.
What are the Safety Responsibilities of Supervisors?
Supervisors have a lot to handle during the average workday. They must assign work tasks, supervise employees, and ensure that the organization is running smoothly. They are also responsible for the following:
- Conduct orientation and training of employees: Supervisors need to make sure that all employees understand how to perform their work safely and provide each worker with the necessary PPE based on the task that each worker is responsible for doing. Employees should understand how their equipment should be used, stored, and maintained. In addition, supervisors must ensure that employees attend all mandated safety training courses and that their attendance is documented.
- Enforce safe work practices: In addition to ensuring that employees understand safety procedures, supervisors must enforce these practices. When this does not happen, serious workplace accidents are more likely to happen. Workers must also feel comfortable notifying their supervisors of any hazardous work conditions without worrying that they will face negative consequences for doing so.
- Correct any hazardous or unhealthy conditions: If a supervisor observes any hazardous conditions or an employee reports a safety issue, the supervisor is responsible for correcting the issue as soon as possible. If the issue cannot be fixed immediately, the supervisor must take the necessary precautions to protect employees until the hazard can be fixed.
- Prevent lingering workplace health hazards or unsafe conditions: Part of the training process includes teaching employees what to look for and how to identify, correct, and report an unsafe condition or hazard. Once the hazard has been reported, the supervisor must act.
- Investigate workplace accidents: If a workplace accident does occur, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation and ensure that the injured worker reports to the Occupational Medical Service (OMS) as soon as possible.
- Encourage a quick return to work: Supervisors must encourage employees to return to work as soon as possible following a workplace injury. Even if that means assigning light or limited duties for a period, this will make the process of returning to work easier. In addition, the longer an employee is out of work, the less likely it is that the employee will return to his or her job.
What can Employers Do to Inspire Safety-Conscious Employees and Behavior?
Employers who follow these important safety tips demonstrate a commitment to creating a workplace culture that prioritizes safety:
- Ensure that safety committees have representation from all levels of employees, including executive, senior, mid-level, and junior level.
- Establish an open forum in which employees feel encouraged to participate in the development of new and enhanced safety standards and practices.
- Use safety training as a way to reward employee participation and encourage employees to train their fellow workers.
- Find ways to make meetings, safety trainings, and conferences fun by encouraging games, trivia contests, lunch and learn programs, and early dismissals.
- Assign safety committee members positions of leadership and recognize their accomplishments and contributions in a public way.
- Recognize and acknowledge workers who report near-misses.
- Recognize workers who overcome hazards or who come up with new and innovative solutions to a safety issue.
- Establish an annual awards program that recognizes and rewards workers for a range of safety-related accomplishments. The awards can range from a day of paid time off to a new piece of safety equipment for his or her office.
- At the end of each year, recognize an employee who demonstrated exemplary behavior related to safety. A safety celebration ceremony can be held where the employee’s accomplishments are acknowledged.
According to the Director of Risk Management at Sentinel Risk Advisors, effective communication is key when it comes to recognizing safety-forward behaviors. Employee recognition must be done in a way that inspires workers to make safety a priority every day and encourage their fellow employees to do the same. To ensure that supervisors have the communication skills necessary to effectively disseminate important safety information and inspire employees, they must be trained and given plenty of opportunities to practice their skills. Classroom learning and on-the-job practice are among the most efficient approaches.
How Do I Report an Unsafe Work Condition?
If a worker observes a safety issue or workplace hazard that could jeopardize the health and safety of the employees, they must report the issue as soon as possible, particularly if the hazard caused an injury. The safety issue should be immediately reported to the employee’s immediate supervisor. Ideally, once the supervisor is made aware of the safety issue, he or she will take immediate steps to correct it. However, if the employer fails to address the safety hazard, the next step would be to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This can be done by mail, online, or by calling the regional office. If the employee is concerned about reprisal, they can make the complaint anonymously.
The next step may involve scheduling an in-person inspection of the work site. This will give the employee the opportunity to have a private conversation with the inspector and discuss the worker’s concerns in more detail. Finally, the inspector will share his or her findings with the employer once the inspection is complete.
What Should I Do If I am Injured in the Workplace?
If an employee is injured on the job as a result of hazardous work conditions, they must report the injury to the employer as soon as possible, or within 10 days of the date of the accident. A failure to take this step could result in the insurance company denying the claim. The employee should provide as much detailed information about the accident as possible, including whether a machine malfunctioned, if hazardous substances were involved, and if a spill or debris on the floor caused slippery conditions.
After the accident has been reported to the employer, the next step is to notify the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission about the incident via the online portal. Following these important steps will ensure that the injured worker receives the financial benefits he or she deserves, including the following:
- Medical treatment, including hospital and nursing care
- Prescription medications
- Lost wages
- Disability, including temporary partial disability benefits, temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Unsafe Work Conditions
If you suffered a workplace injury as a result of hazardous work conditions, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial benefits you deserve. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. With offices in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.