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Employees and managers alike benefit from understanding the common risks inherent in a working environment. Every organization should perform risk assessments on a regular basis, examining the whole workplace to uncover worker safety issues, as well as inefficient or ineffective practices that might jeopardize normal business operations. Once the common risks in the workplace are understood, the business can use that information to its advantage.
Develop Emergency Responses
Knowing the specific risks involved in a particular workplace allows an organization to plan responses to a variety of potential emergencies. For example, a factory might need an evacuation plan for fires, a medical response plan for worker injuries, and a containment and clean-up plan for hazardous leaks and spills. The key is to design and test response plans for each potential risk, then train workers and managers to ensure they know how to implement each plan safely and effectively.
General Workplace Protocols
Assessing workplace risks also allows an organization to draft policies that govern, for example, protocols for operating equipment and storing hazardous supplies. Clear policies help forestall problems that could hurt workers, slow production and otherwise jeopardize the company’s operations.
Protect Employees at High Risk
Knowing common risks also helps protect employees who face unique risks. Pregnant employees, for example, often face reproductive hazards if they work in the medical care, industry, agriculture or service sector, according to the book “Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace: Mending Jobs, Managing Pregnancies,” by Regina Kenen. Risk analyses to handle such issues are complex and should be completed by trained and qualified professionals.
Understanding security risks is also important. For example, organizations must store customer data in line with industry standards, otherwise they risk destroying their reputation with their clients. Proprietary data, from employee information to corporate strategies, must also be protected. Understanding the likely risks can help an organization design and update security protocols to prevent, for example, hackers from gaining access to a company's private computer network.
If a workplace is large or complicated, it's best to hire an experienced consultant who is knowledgeable about the risks inherent in a particular industry. If that’s not an option, an organization should at least use common sense to assess workplace risks and do what it can to minimize the potential for problems. For example, asking employees to report potential safety hazards on a regular basis can notify managers about problems that would otherwise go unrecognized.
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.
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