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An Update To The Workplace Safety Plan: What Employers Need To Be Doing Now

As companies like Amazon grapple with worker infections, it is becoming increasingly clear that employee safety policies in the workplace leave much to be desired in the current climate. While much emphasis is placed on injuries in the workplace, very little has been done about employee illness from infectious disease or preparing for new unseen emergencies. Now, with more employees heading back into the workplace and calling for protection, employers are tasked with updating their occupational safety approach - or risk a flurry of workplace lawsuits.

Preform A New Risk Assessment For A Revised Risk Management Plan

Almost all workplace accidents or safety issues can be prevented or largely mitigated against - and it all starts with a thorough risk assessment of the workplace. Workplace risk assessments form an integral part of any business’ occupational safety plan, and give rise to potential hazards and a control program designed to address those risks. To guide them, employers can use technical reports like ASSP’s Risk Assessment Technical Report, which provides a clear insight into over 50 different risk assessment and management techniques. The use of technology like Occupational Health Software can also help employers to identify workplace hazards. A large part of a good workplace risk assessment process is a regular update - ideally every year. Evidence of a continuous review of a workplace’s risks and employer-implemented safeguards will form a substantial part of the legal case if an employee is injured at work and chooses to pursue legal action.

Implement Safeguards For Higher Risk Work Settings

A thorough risk assessment of the workplace reveals a crucial detail: higher risk work environments. According to the Bureau of Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program, some of the most precarious professionals across America include the use of heavy machinery or dangerous locations such as manufacturing, construction or industrial shipping. However, with recent events in mind, the definition of a high-risk workplace has changed. Now, exposure to infections or hostility should also be included in determining whether a workplace is high-risk or not. Workplace injuries already cost U.S. businesses over $60 billion annually - without the added legal actions of infected workers.

Employers are also expected to implement reasonable employee safeguards against these risks - and document them for good measure. These include the use of physical barriers to minimize the spread of diseases and the provision of basic job-related personal protective equipment and basic hygiene supplies. Failure to do so leaves employers vulnerable to legal action for their part in employee injuries. A good example of this is the 2017 case against Arrow LLC, which saw the plumbing contractor being fined $714,142 by OSHA for its inaction in safeguarding and training its employees against the dangers of a trench collapse.

A Clear Documentation And Reporting Hierarchy For All Workplace Incidences

One of the most revealing pieces of information in the Amazon warehouse incident was the lack of transparency and adequate record-keeping when it came to warehouse safety and risks. In addition to regular employee training and education on workplace risks, a clearly defined reporting process of workplace injuries and incidences need to be implemented, covering injuries and infectious diseases. This requires working in tandem with the business’ Human Resources department to develop an Accident Reporting Policy. It should outline steps employees must take if they witness an incident or anticipate one that could happen due to inadequate safeguards or negligence. The reporting policy should also stipulate employee reporting hierarchy and potential repercussions for non-compliance.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also released guidelines to help employers reformulate their workplace incident reporting policy to include employee protection during a pandemic and other emerging workplace risks. Like any other business policy, workplace safety is not what it traditionally looked like. It is ever-evolving and advancing, and an employer’s approach should reflect this.

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