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Companies that ignore safety put employees in unfavorable circumstances that increase the likelihood of accidents, injuries and illnesses. This can affect a company's bottom line when workers end up injured or ill because of the increased costs of workers' compensation insurance and injured employees missing work. When you work for someone else, understand your rights under the law. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives you the right to a safe workplace.
While working in an office doesn't keep you safe from work-related physical problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive strain injuries, people who work in construction, manufacturing plants, maritime operations, general industry and warehouses often face greater risks because of the hazardous materials and equipment they work with. Companies that care about their employees' safety have programs in place that include regular safety tailgate meetings, talks, training and personal protection equipment.
Even though OSHA standards require employers to train workers to handle equipment safety, not all do, which puts you at a disadvantage. Just because a company carries workers' compensation insurance doesn't mean you'll be safe on the job. Before going to work for a company in a high-risk job, determine if it has a safety program in place. Review the company's safety record and check for a safety director. Companies with an eye on safety usually have a safety director on staff.
Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA sets the standards and methods that employers must use to keep their employees safe while on the job, including outfitting employees with personal protection equipment as needed and as defined by the industry. This could include hard hats, eye and hand protection, special clothing for welding or special steel-toed shoes. Besides providing the equipment, an employer must train employees in its proper use and replace any equipment that doesn't function. When you work without the required equipment, you're working with a safety disadvantage.
Companies that don't encourage regular workplace inspections for safety hazards also place their workers at a disadvantage. When employees become too familiar with their jobs, they often forget to keep safety uppermost in their minds. Workplace inspections composed of worker teams from other departments bring a fresh eye to possible safety hazards. Regular inspections for these hazards don't just apply in industrial settings. Offices pose many risks for workers too. For instance, they might trip because of open file drawers in walkways, improperly covered cords or unsafe workstations. Regular inspections – even in offices – help mitigate risks by identifying problem areas.
As a manager or an employee, you can ask OSHA to inspect your workplace if you think your employer doesn't provide a safe one. Under federal law, an employer can't retaliate against you for reporting problems or issues to OSHA. Employers must offer means to prevent infectious diseases at work, provide safe practices for entering confined spaces, stop exposure to harmful or hazardous materials, add machine safety guards and offer training for dangerous jobs.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration: You Have the Right to a Safe Workplace
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Personal Protective Equipment
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: Workplace Inspections
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration: OSHA Inspections
As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.