Safety in the Workplace:

Operating with Safety at the Forefront

Safety first symbols, work safety, caution work hazards, danger

Whether you work in an office or are a welder, having a safe workplace is a fundamental right in the United States. It is difficult to imagine an effective workplace without a central tenet of safety in place, ensuring workers an environment that allows them to feel safe in the performance of their jobs. In fact, as we are taught by Maslow's hierarchy of needs, both our psychological and safety needs must be met first and foremost.  

A safe workplace, which many of us take for granted, has a long and oftentimes dark history. One of the most infamous - and egregious - examples of workplace safety failures, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, is considered a pivotal moment in history. The catastrophe led to the transformation of New York State’s labor code and, eventually, the adoption of fire safety measures that became the model for the entire nation. That didn’t mean the 1910s saw the last of workplace tragedy, however. More recent incidents include seven workers killed in a refinery fire in Anacortes, Washington; the death of 29 coal miners in the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia; and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.

The most seminal piece of workplace safety legislation, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was enacted in 1970. This measure aims to ensure that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free from any safety or health hazards that could cause death or serious injury. The Act’s importance is difficult to overstate, and its necessity easy to understand. After all, who can be expected to do their best work when faced with an unsafe environment? At Stone Soup, we believe employers and employees have the joint responsibility to make their workplaces as safe as possible. We also extend the definition of “safe” to more than mere prevention of injury and death; rather, a safe work environment encompasses an employee’s security, health, and wellbeing, in both the physical and psychological sense. 

During the COVID pandemic, much of the responsibility for understanding the needs of the employer and the employee landed on the laps of the Human Resources Professional. In this article, we review the major responsibilities of an employer as mandated by OSHA and examine how trainings can help employers ensure their compliance and create workplaces that attain the highest possible safety standards.

  • Under the OSH Act, an employer must provide a safe and healthful workplace. Each year, employers are asked to update their Federal, State and Local Employment Posters.  Make sure yours are current, as each poster speaks to workplace safety.
  • The employer must Provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious safety and health hazards and follow all applicable OSHA safety and health standards. Employers must be prepared to closely examine their workplaces in order to find and correct safety and health issues. 
  • Employers must evaluate the potential hazards of chemicals and communicate information concerning hazards and appropriate protective measures to employees. Employers must have a written hazard communication program for the workplace, including lists of hazardous chemicals present as well as specific instructions for the labeling and distribution of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). Employers must also develop and implement employee training programs regarding hazards of chemicals and protective measures. Employers must provide employees all required PPE (e.g., safety glasses, safety- toe shoes, protective gloves, respiratory protection, personal fall arrest systems) at no cost to employees in most circumstances.

With these responsibilities in mind, there may be steps you need to take in order to assess and verify your company’s compliance. Risk Management is a key competency of Human Resources and this is where Stone Soup Performance can support your business in providing a safe workplace. Safety starts with an assessment of the environment. Typically, we often make an introduction to one of our trusted partners Dolan Williams, CEO of B&W Compliance and an expert in workplace safety. Because development of the Injury Illness Prevention Plan (IIPP) is industry-specific, Stone Soup Performance can assist in writing the office version, while B&W Compliance can bring their expertise to sector-specific standards. 

As an employer, we should conduct safety training not only at orientation but as an ongoing monthly commitment. Once your IIPP identifies your major areas of risk - whether this is safe lifting, protecting your back, or ladder safety - Stone Soup Performance will assist you in securing the right resources for your ongoing training program. This includes the company’s Workers Compensation carrier, which is one of the most valuable resources available to all businesses.

 Finally, Stone Soup Performance can help you manage your record keeping obligations under OSHA. The completion and submission of the OSHA 300 is an annual Q1 requirement. With an understanding of an employer’s payroll or HR systems, Stone Soup Performance is skilled in identifying how to record your incidence throughout the year, rather than trying to gather all data points one time a year.

There are also various state-specific considerations to take into account. If you are a California employer, 2024 introduced California’s Workplace Violence Prevention Standards. Signed by Governor Newsom in late 2023, this measure mandates general industry workplace violence safety requirements that will be applicable to nearly all California employers.  Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, 2024, covered employers will have a number of new obligations, including:

  • Establishing, implementing and maintaining a written “workplace violence prevention plan”;
  • Training your workforce on your workplace violence prevention plan;
  • Utilizing a violent incident log for each instance of workplace violence involving your employees; and
  • Record retention.

Stone Soup Performance is committed to worker wellbeing in every possible respect, and we firmly believe that occupational safety is one of the most fundamental principles of workplace excellence. As such, our trainings encompass the most up-to-date information and most effective ways to meet safety compliance standards, with a keen focus on what these requirements mean for your employees and our workplace. Our ultimate goal is always to serve as your partner, identifying the most effective ways to help you and your employees thrive - and safety is the perfect place to start.