“My eyes! The goggles do nothing!” said Simpsons character and Schwarzenegger satire Rainier Wolfcastle as a wall of acid washed over him on the set of his latest film. This extreme view of workplace safety — of industry, goggles, and corrosive chemicals—is often dismissed by business owners who feel secure in their office environment from costly injuries and OSHA penalties. But when an OSHA inspector comes calling or a lawsuit threatens, those opinions ultimately do nothing.
Protecting your business isn’t only about heavy machinery and leaving work each day with 10 fingers and 10 toes, it’s also about whom you hire and how you manage them. Here are some ways you can do a more effective job keeping your business safe using traditional workplace safety programs and other steps to help protect your business against regulatory penalties and lawsuits.
Start an Injury and Illness Prevention Program
OSHA doesn’t just fine companies for unsafe practices. They want businesses to be safe before they audit them. The OSHA Injury and Illness Prevention Program and other workplace safety programs can help you recognize potential hazards before they turn into accidents by sharing extensive safety knowledge and tools in order to prevent them.
Conduct Employee Screening and Background Checks
Nearly two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. How well do you know a potential employee based on a phone conversation and a couple of interviews? Setting up sensible employee background checks in compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws, can help you uncover inaccuracies on resumes, or a history of unacceptable or even violent behavior.
Develop a Company Employee Handbook
When carefully created, an employee handbook can provide support in your defense of any legal actions taken by employees or ex-employees. Once you understand what to include in an employee handbook, you’ll be able to help your staff better understand employee rights, and in part, their obligations and responsibilities. You’ll also want to avoid common handbook mistakes, such as choosing a generic template, failing to include at-will disclaimers, or neglecting to have an attorney review your handbook policies.
Take Steps to Avoid HR Lawsuits
Mitigating lawsuits is a goal for many businesses, as employee litigation can result in significant expenses and the soiling of your company’s good reputation. Being consistent in your HR policies, documentation, and training can help your business avoid costly lawsuits. Start by looking into ways to keep up with wage and hour changes, ensure your compliance with discrimination laws, and document every step in cases of employee discipline.
While a typical office environment isn’t generally subject to the kind of industrial-scale accidents synonymous with workplace safety programs, most businesses are subject to OSHA regulations and are at risk for other types of penalties and potential lawsuits as well. Take a close look at your company, and do something today to keep your business and its employees safe.