People Matter | HR Essentials

Is Your Business Promoting or Preventing Workplace Safety?

November 18, 2019

Six Strategies to Help Protect Your People

Workplace safety is increasingly becoming top of mind for employers. In addition to protecting the people that matter—your employees, work place safety standards span beyond handling of hazardous materials and machinery and include steps to mitigate workplace violence. Certain business environments may require additional precautions based on industry and location. However, these recommendations are ideal for all businesses.

1) Establish an Anti-Violence and Workplace Security Policy

This type of policy is critical for establishing a company’s commitment to no tolerance for acts of violence or threats of violence. The policy should not only cover threats involving employees, but also cover clients, visitors, vendors, contractors, and other individuals that could pose a threat to an employee. The policy should include examples of prohibited conduct as well as the procedure for reporting acts or threats of violence and the actions the company will take as a result of the report.

2) Implement Strict Workplace Entry Policies

Ideally, all workplaces should have control over who enters a workplace. Not only does this help protect the workplace from issues regarding data security and confidentiality but it also helps protect the workplace from unnecessary visitors who could pose a threat to the safety of employees. A sound workplace entry policy should have a system where employees use a badge to check in and restricts those who do not have a badge from entering the facility. This policy should also prevent anyone, including employees who may have lost or forgotten their badge, from “piggy backing” off of other employees to enter the workplace.

3) Manage Employee Terminations to Mitigate Risk

Terminating an employee is never easy and must always be conducted in a respectful and kind manner. Whenever possible, terminations should be conducted by the employee’s manager and a neutral party preferably HR. When there is a concern that the employee may become violent, the manager should consider conducting the termination meeting in a neutral location with security present. The process must be well-documented and all information related to the termination, including information on applying for COBRA, presenting the final pay check and severance pay must be communicated to the employee during the meeting.

4) Encourage Open Communication

Open communication begins with an open-door policy which encourages employees to report concerns without fear of retaliation and knowing that the company will investigate any concerns and take action as appropriate. As part of open communication, managers should be encouraged to hold regular 1:1’s. These check-ins provide opportunities for employees to express any obstacles they have in performing their job as well as share safety concerns. An employee feeling hesitant to express concern to their direct manager may feel more comfortable speaking with a human resource professional. As such, human resource staff should also make themselves available for employees to express concern about the workplace.

Employers should also communicate, typically via email, natural disasters or building access issues that might impact an employee’s safety.

5) Implement Required Safety Policies and Training

Employers should implement required safety policy and training programs for all employees. These programs should include first aid and emergency action plan training, and harassment prevention training. Employers should ensure that there are first aid kits available for minor injuries as well as hold fire and emergency drills as required by jurisdiction and ensure these procedures are taken seriously with active participation by all employees. Even if not required in your jurisdiction, regularly conducting these trainings is best practice.

6) Be Proactive in Reducing the Spread of Illness

Encourage employees to be responsible and take sick time, in accordance with your paid time off and/or sick leave policy, when necessary without reprimand. Some employers add remote working options for employees who are sick to avoid the spread of illness. Holding a flu shot clinic where trained personnel come onsite to administer flu shots to staff is also helpful in preventing the spread of flu or reimbursing employees for the cost of the flu shot. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of the office will also keep viruses from spreading between employees. Keep hand sanitizer in every conference room during flu season!

The best way to execute these strategies is to commit to improving workplace health and safety standards. If necessary, make these goals a part of a yearly business development plan.

With safety standards in place, a business can protect their employees. Further, an employee-focused culture that emphasizes health and safety creates a positive environment for optimal job satisfaction, morale, and productivity.

By Kelly Pacatte

Kelly Pacatte is a senior employee relations consultant with TriNet.

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