Workplace safety is essential for providing a safe environment in which employees can work with minimal risk to their health. On-the-job accidents can cause injuries and death. Preventing these accidents requires the effort of all employees in the organization. Numerous workplace of risks exist, including dangers resulting from human errors and mechanical malfunctions. An organization must use a combination of safety training and safety protocols to prevent as many employee injuries as possible.
The Employer's Responsibility
Employers must take workplace safety seriously. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides resources for managing safety and preventing specific injuries and illnesses. The employer is responsible for developing policies and procedures for preventing workplace injuries. OSHA provides standards for all organizations, including small businesses, as well as specific regulations by industry (for example, longshoring).
The Employer's Protection
Safety policies and procedures must include a detailed documentation system, including employee training, safety equipment, safety inspections, injury documentation and injury reporting. The employer must keep accurate records and make reports to appropriate agencies (including OSHA). Demonstrating injury prevention to OSHA standards also protects the employer from some legal exposures. Finally, reducing workplace injuries also saves the employer on costs for worker's compensation claims.
The Employee's Responsibility
Each worker plays an important role in ensuring her own safety to prevent injury, illness or death from a workplace accident. To maintain a safe workplace, employees must complete mandatory safety training, perform inspections, complete safety checklists and follow safety protocols consistently at work. For many organizations, the employee's responsibility also includes coming to work prepared to perform tasks without the impairment of alcohol or drugs.
The Employee's Protection
The employer's comprehensive safety program, including training, protocols, and documentation, serve to protect the individual employee. When the employee follows the standards of safety maintained by the organization, he performs a job in a safe working environment. The employee is also protected in many organizations (with more than the legally defined number of employees) by worker's compensation insurance. In the event of injury or death, the employee or his beneficiaries will receive compensation for losses sustained on the job under available worker's compensation benefits.
Putting It All Together
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "Approximately 3.8 million (94.8 percent) of the 4 million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2007 were injuries—of which 2.6 million (69.6 percent) occurred in service-providing industries which employed 79.5 percent of the private industry workforce covered by this survey." (See References 2)
A safe workplace benefits everyone. Employers and employees work together to ensure all workers are protected from injury. They enjoy the possible backup protection of worker's compensation insurance in the event of a workplace accident or exposure. When all employees and managers work to follow safety protocols and complete appropriate documentation, the entire organization maintains a workplace culture of safety.