Every workplace harbors different hazards for employees. While the risk of physical injury or even fatality is very much present in heavy industry and construction, attorneys and accountants are prone to cerebral burnout. And of course no business is completely immune to things like the flu, slip and falls, overexertion, fires, and unforeseen toxic events. Whatever your field of business, however, employers must be ever-vigilant in assessing risk factors associated with workplace health and safety hazards. Not only do accidents and sickness have a direct impact on your company’s bottom-line, but in many cases you may also be legally responsible for addressing certain hazards and problems. In trying to determine which dangers are most likely to disrupt productivity or pose a threat to employee well-being, you will also want to consult the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.
Probably the most common and difficult to control risk to employee health and safety are communicable diseases like the common cold and the flu. However banal this hazard might at first appear, you should not underestimate the havoc it can wreak on your staff in a very short period of time. During flu season, that tiny virus costs companies literally billions of dollars in lost productivity through sick days and underperformance. The best way to combat communicable disease is to promote a culture of healthfulness and to encourage staff members to stay home when they’re sick. If possible, building a cloud-based infrastructure that allows sick employees to work from home can mitigate the damage to your workflow process in their absence from the office.
Chronic Pain and Injury
Chronic pain and overexertion injuries can have a huge impact on the productivity of almost any business–from heavy industry to data entry. That’s because, whether your employees are lifting heavy boxes or tap-tap-tapping away at their keyboards all day, their bodies are being subject to repetitive physical stresses that they simply weren’t designed to handle. In trying to contain this type of injury, employers will want to look closely at the physical activities being performed by staff and to get familiar with this fancy word: ergonomics. Proper physical form, when applied to everything from lifting with your legs instead of your back to good posture in front of the computer, can head off all kinds of unnecessary fatigue and injuries. Added bonus: these injuries are actually much easier to prevent than they are to cure. Prevention really pays off here.
Accidents, On and Off the Job
The very word “accident” suggests this might not be a category you can do much about. But in fact so-called accidents are often the result of a very predictable set of circumstances. Fatigue and overwork happen to be big contributors to preventable injury and death. Whether it’s operating heavy machinery or simply driving home from work in a state of total exhaustion, employees are far more likely to injure themselves if they aren’t getting enough rest. As an employer, it’s in your best interest to give employees regular working hours whenever possible, and to encourage them to take frequent breaks and rest during unusual strenuous work periods.
Slip and Falls
An enormous boon to personal injury attorneys, slip and falls around the workplace are far too common and relatively easily prevented. Employers will need to rely on strict attentiveness to the physical space in which employees work, and to ensure that any maintenance and cleaning crews are extremely conscientious when it comes to doing their job. Weekly walk-throughs of the workspace to assess potential dangers in this category are also a good idea. Not only will they get you out of your office on a walkabout, but they may also spare you an ugly lawsuit.
Perhaps the least common of our categories, violence in the workplace does happen with alarming frequency. Fortunately, it’s largely preventable. Robberies account for most acts of workplace violence in this country. But you don’t have to run a bank to be concerned with robbery; after all, employees traveling from the office to a dark parking garage late at night are just as likely to be targeted by criminals. If your office is in a remote or unsafe location, consider installing a new lighting system that illuminates dark passages where trouble might lurk. Or you could encourage employees who work late to find a buddy to leave work with.
For more information on how to prevent workplace hazards and other employment-related issues, please visit us at Masiello.