The August 2013 figures from the Bureau of Labor reveal that 4,383 fatal workplace injuries took place in the US in 2012. A healthy workplace is a more productive environment and it is the responsibility of employers and employees to ensure that all are working in safety.
Health and Safety Regulations
It has become increasingly fashionable to make fun of health and safety regulations, and some of these do tend to appear over-protective of the population, however, these regulations have been introduced to improve life at work and to reduce risk of injury or death. No one wants to be laid off work as a result of a workplace injury that could have been avoided had the company fully complied with health and safety regulations. Thankfully, not all accidents at work are fatal but it’s wise for any employer and employee to take into account the OHSA’s advice concerning safety at work. Regular risk assessments are always a good idea and a designated member of staff should carry out these checks on a regular basis. Prevention is always better than cure.
In order to comply with federal legal requirements, many companies have also introduced a drugs and alcohol policy. In fact some companies in the US will not hire an employee unless they have agreed to a pre-employment test. There is sound reasoning behind this policy; an intoxicated or drugged employee is a danger to themselves, their colleagues and the public. Employers are responsible for an employee’s behavior. If the company’s policies are clearly laid out then all employees can expect to have to undergo some form of drug testing. As a result of the introduction of this policy many firms recorded a reduction in employee turnover. Sometimes the knowledge that a firm will implement testing is enough to act as a wake-up call for the workforce and management.
The OHSA regularly publishes guidelines for health and safety in the workplace. These cover a whole range of subjects from dealing with toxic materials to the need for regular breaks from a workstation in order to protect an employee’s eyes. If a company doesn’t adhere to these guidelines and an OHSA inspection reveals violations, then the department does have the capacity to impose stringent fines. A minor infringement can lead to a fine of $7,000, though this figure can be reduced if the employer has previously shown itself to be compliant. A company that’s revealed as a persistent offender and has frequently breached the regulations is liable for a fine of $70,000. In 2012 the OHSA collected fines to the value of $155 million from non-compliant companies.
In order to remain compliant workplace health and safety regulations must be in written form and all employees must be made aware of these instructions. Training is another employer responsibility; it reassures the workforce that they are working in a safe environment and also ensures that everyone knows what to do should an accident occur.