Tag Archives: workplace safety

Reducing Exposure to Chemical Hazards at Work

According to David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “More than 32 million workers are exposed to 650,000 hazardous chemical products in American workplaces.” For this reason, the OSHA is continuing their Alliance with the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC). As an HR professional, knowing about this alliance and complying with all workplace safety guidelines is essential to helping to keep your employees safe. 

Goals of the Alliance
The Alliance between the OSHS and the SCHC will continue for two years. Goals intended to promote best practices in the workplace include:

  • Reducing exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace
  • Addressing hazard communication
  • Reducing occupational illnesses and injuries due to chemical exposure
  • Increasing awareness of GHS – the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
These goals will help employees know what chemical hazards are in the workplace so they may avoid exposure to them. The Alliance will also disseminate information on labeling, safety measures, compliant labeling, and other best practices though Webinars, meetings, and national conferences on health and safety.

Your Role in Chemical Safety
OSHA helps ensure chemical safety in the workplace by developing and enforcing regulations, and offering training, assistance, and education. However, ultimately the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 places responsibility on the employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees.  HR professionals should visit the Hazard Communication Web page for OSHA to learn the most recent revisions to standards, safety labels, and data sheets. The Hazard Communication Standard makes information available about identifying chemicals and their hazards. This includes:

  • Requirements for chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate possible hazards
  • Development of Material Safety Data Sheets and labels that are compliant with regulations
  • Requirements of employers to ensure that all chemicals have the proper labels and Material Safety Data Sheets
  • Requirement of employers to train workers in the proper handling of chemicals
Complying with all OSHA requirements and guidelines helps to keep your employees safe and helps to ensure you are in compliance with the law and safe from liability if an injury or incident occurs. 

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Workplace Violence on the Rise

In a nationwide study conducted by AlliedBarton Security Services, slightly more than half of the 1030 individuals surveyed reported that they had seen, heard about or experienced either violence in their workplace or that they had experienced an incident that could have lead to violence. These stats are frightening, as are those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrating that there were more than 700 homicides on average per year that occurred in the workplace between 1992 and 2009.

Bill Whitmore, chairman, president and CEO of AlliedBarton Services, indicated in the release of the survey that, “Workplace violence often starts as verbal assaults or harassment and can escalate into threatening behavior, bullying, physical assaults and even, in some instances, deadly encounters.”  HR professionals need to be aware of this threat and take action. 

Stats on Workplace Violence

According to the Violence in the American Workplace survey:

  • 5 percent of those responding had experienced or were affected by violence at work. 
  • 12 percent saw or knew about an event that caused significant physical damage. 
  • 28 percent said that a violent event or an event that could lead to violence had happened to them. 
  • 29 percent did not report the violent event that they either experienced or heard about nor did they take any kind of action. 
  • 34 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned about their personal safety at work.
  • 94 percent of the employers had responded to violence in the workplace. This usually consisted of an employee meeting and 53 percent of employers enacted disciplinary measures.

Taking Action

Upper management and HR employees need to be aware that certain conditions may lead to more incidences of workplace violence. Contributing factors include the current recession and the growing number of unemployed Americans. Provisions need to be in place to prevent workplace violence, and action need to be taken if violence occurs.

To help prevent violence in your workplace, consider taking the following steps:

  • Offer classes for anger management
  • Provide assistance for employees who have a substance abuse problem 
  • Increase supervision and control of workers.
By following these steps, you can help to keep your workplace safer. 

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Developing The Emergency Evacuation Policy

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, over 200 fires occur in the workplace every day. These fires kill 200 workers and injure more than 5000. They also cost business more than 2 billion dollars.  The development of a comprehensive evacuation plan can help minimize risk to workers.

Appoint employees to the emergency preparedness team. Designate someone from a unit or floor to help organize plans. Responsibility rests with making sure evacuation procedures are followed safely and in an orderly manner.

Maintain emergency response team meetings on a regular basis. Keep training materials and documents up to date. Make announcements in a manner that is accessible to all employees such as posting on bulletin boards and public areas.

Designate areas where employees are to meet. Different parts of the organization should be sent to an area most convenient and accessible to them.  For example, individual floors and departments should be sent to the same location. People familiar with each other may better recognize if individuals are missing.

Plan regular drills and exercises for emergencies and evacuations.. Ensure that employees with disabilities are included in all drill phases.  Have workers who use wheelchairs wait by the elevators or stairs until the drill is over is not adequate.

Develop an emergency notification and alert system that accommodations for workers with disabilities.  Use sound-based systems for low-vision employees and  text-based systems for the deaf. Messages should be recognizable and coherent with clear instructions about evacuation procedures and locations.

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OSHA Issues Safety Guidelines For Black Friday

You can walk into any retail store today and see Christmas everywhere while Felice Navidad plays on the sound system. However, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is considered the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers open earlier and give some of the deepest sales of the year. Many people have the day off, augmenting the number of shoppers.

There have been incidents that have raised the concern for employees and customers for employees. In 2008 a New York Wal-Mart employee was killed when shoppers broke down the door crushing him. A similar incident occurred in a Buffalo, NY Target store in 2010. OSHA has prepared guidelines to help employers and store owners avoid injuries during the shopping season and  events where large crowds may gather. Some of these include:

Planning:

Create a detailed staffing plan that designates a location for each worker.

Based on the size of the crowd expected, number of workers needed in various locations to ensure the safety of the event should be figured.

Consult local fire and police agencies to determine if the event site meets  public safety requirements, and ensure that all permits and licenses are obtained and that local emergency services, and that the local police, fire department and hospital, are aware of the event.

Pre-Event Setup:

Set up barricades or rope lines for crowd management well in advance of customers arriving at the store.

Make sure that barricades are set up so that the customers’ line does not start right at the entrance to the store. This will allow for orderly crowd management entry and make it possible to divide crowds into small groups for the purpose of controlling entrance.

Ensure that barricade lines have an adequate number of breaks and turns at regular intervals to reduce the risk of customers pushing from the rear and possibly crushing others, including workers.

Emergency Situations:

Know in advance who to call for emergency medical response.

Keep first-aid kits and Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) available, and have personnel trained in using AEDs and CPR onsite.

Other suggestions can be found on the OSHA website.  

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Developing A Bomb Threat Assessment Policy

With everything going on in the world of business it may be the furthest thing from a manager’s mind. Truthfully, it may be something some people do not want to think about. However the prospect of any business or organization receiving a bomb threat needs to be considered as a possibility. 

Receiving A Threat

No matter how a bomb threat may be perceived, any threat must be considered seriously. Most bomb threats are made over the phone and anyone in an organization may potentially receive the threat. It is important to keep the person on the line and ask them:

  • where an explosive device is located
  • if they know what time it will go off
  • what the explosive device looks like
  • why it was placed
  • any other information they may be relevant     

Bomb Threat Form                          

Some organizations have taken to develop a bomb threat report form.  This should be available to staff to complete should a call be received. There should be a department desiganated who receives this form.  It not only helps in trying to find where an explosive device may be hidden but also aids law enforcement in the subsequent investigation.

Emergency Procedures

Organizations should have plans in place for evacuations in emergency situations such as fires. The same procedures should be conducted with a bomb threat. Employees should be made as calm as possible. Evacuation of the building should be commenced and carried out just like any other emergency. Proper authorities in law enforcement and local fire departments should be contacted as soon as possible. 

Threat Assessment Training

Organizations may consider having regular threat assessment training programs for their employees. This could be conducted by law enforcement or specialists in workplace safety. Response training can be part of any workplace safety programs and curriculums that the organization uses. Preventive education and developing guidelines on handling threats can help the safety of any business. 

 

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