Violence in the workplace often erupts without warning, and can have tragic results. Taking steps to prevent these situations can improve safety in your workplace, improve employee satisfaction and lead to increased productivity. Conversely, ignoring potential hazards can result in employee injury, even death — and legal action at considerable costs to the company.
OSHA has outlined five steps you can take to identify and prevent these violent encounters before they happen. While they are not directly related to materials handling operations, we feel these guidelines can apply to a wide variety of organizations, including your company.
Management Commitment and Employee Participation
As with any initiative, without the commitment of management and leadership, the rank-and-file of the organization will likely ignore any efforts to improve safety with regards to violence. Company leadership must be involved on a regular basis and visibly endorse the effort. This can be achieved by establishing a safety and health committee, and having leadership rotate in and out of meetings conducted by the committee.
Management must articulate a policy and establish goals for the company. Once a plan has been developed, leadership should allocate sufficient resources to accomplish the goals and uphold program performance expectations. Providing resources could entail meetings with health professionals to help identify potential hazards, creating visible signage and using other communication methods to keep workers involved in and aware of the program.
Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification
There are probably facets of your operation that are prone to producing higher anxiety or tension among your employees. These could be actual physical conditions such as heat, cold, and hazardous areas as well as departments that demand high productivity, or even interaction with the public. Taking stock of these areas and identifying factors that are the least or most likely to create a stressful atmosphere are key to prevention. Two steps you can take to identify and prevent violence include:
- Conducting job hazard analysis – Management can conduct surveys of their departments to assess the potential risk of violence among employees. This not only includes internal assessments, but assessments of destinations to which your employees may travel, including specific neighborhoods, time of day, etc. Sites that expose your employees to violent behavior are often outside the walls of your facility.
- Conduct employee surveys – Employees will often tell you if their jobs create stressful situations for them and if they feel endangered by some of their job tasks. Conduction of reviews on a regular basis will help you identify these areas and create a plan to reduce danger.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Once management has established and articulated its commitment, and evaluations have taken place, a plan to reduce potential hazards must be implemented. This step includes:
- Identification and evaluation of control options for workplace hazards
- Selection of effective and feasible controls to eliminate or reduce hazards
- Implementation of these controls
- Follow up to confirm these controls are being used and maintained
- Evaluate effectiveness and improve, expand or update these controls as needed
Safety and Health Training
As with any program you want to succeed, employees must be trained in order to follow the steps outlined by the company to identify and report these risks and follow up as needed.
This training could include meetings with mental health experts to help identify signs of stress in colleagues that could lead to violence. It also can include training on how to avoid violence outside your facility by taking common-sense actions (such as parking under a street lamp), what to do if an employee feels threatened and even self-defense training. Other training topics can include:
- The company’s workplace policy on violence prevention
- Documentation and reporting
- Location, operation and coverage of safety devices such as alarms
- Ways to identify and deal with hostile situations
- A standard response plan for violent situations
Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation
Recordkeeping includes reporting procedures, what gets reported and to whom, and how these records are kept. Keeping track of both “close calls” and actual events helps you identify patterns, areas of particular concern and even certain job functions that might be creating undue stress on employees. It can help you identify areas outside your facility that present a danger to your employees, such as areas of town they serve.
OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300) can help you organize information not only for reporting to your proper internal sources but also for reporting to OSHA if necessary. As of January 2015, all employers must report:
- All work-related fatalities within 8 hours
- All work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours
Injuries sustained as a result of assault must be entered on the log if they meet OSHA’s recording criteria (CFR Part 1904, revised 2014).
Keeping track helps you improve your program, improve employee safety and ensure your employees are operating in a safe and productive work environment.
We hope this summary is helpful to you in establishing your own workplace violence prevention plan. To learn more about what you can do, download the complete “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence) by OSHA, HERE. While it was prepared for healthcare and social service workers, the overall content of this guide can assist any company, big or small, in achieving a safer work environment for all.
Whether an employee is working on a high-rise building or driving a forklift, employers have the responsibility, and what we feel is an obligation to protect their employees from injury. By investing in training and safety, employers get fewer injuries, lower costs, more productivity and an improved satisfaction which often leads to less turn over. But all companies do not feel that way. Many are finding ways to avoid responsibility for providing safe working conditions for their most dangerous jobs.
The report highlights what some companies do to avoid responsibility and what this does to not only the employee, but his/her family and taxpayers when an accident with injury occurs. Shifting the financial burden however does not make it go away. It shifts it to over-burdened worker’s compensation and government systems. In addition, a worker who is injured can expect to make an average of 15% less income after the injury. And while the creating of OSHA in 1970 by President Nixon has greatly reduced on the job accidents, injuries and deaths dramatically, we still have approximately 4,500 deaths every year due to workplace accidents.
As a full-service forklift dealership, safety is one of our most important topics. Forklifts are dangerous pieces of equipment for the operator and anyone working around the forklift. Forklift Operator Training and Pedestrian Training is not only the law, it is our obligation to those that operate forklifts. While manufacturers work hard to innovate and make them safer, nothing can replace a well trained and cautious operator.
By now we all know that anyone that operates lift trucks in your facility MUST be trained to do so. This training needs to be done on YOUR type of equipment, operated in YOUR facility. But when does and operator need to be “refreshed” on forklift operator training, and why? OSHA States:
1910.178(l)(4)(i) – Refresher training, including an evaluation of the effectiveness of that training, shall be conducted as required by paragraph (l)(4)(ii) to ensure that the operator has the knowledge and skills needed to operate the powered industrial truck safely.
1910.178(l)(4)(ii) – Refresher training in relevant topics shall be provided to the operator when:
1910.178(l)(4)(ii)(A) – The operator has been observed to operate the vehicle in an unsafe manner;
1910.178(l)(4)(ii)(B) – The operator has been involved in an accident or near-miss incident;
1910.178(l)(4)(ii)(C) – The operator has received an evaluation that reveals that the operator is not operating the truck safely;
1910.178(l)(4)(ii)(D) – The operator is assigned to drive a different type of truck; or
1910.178(l)(4)(ii)(E) – A condition in the workplace changes in a manner that could affect safe operation of the truck.
1910.178(l)(4)(iii) – An evaluation of each powered industrial truck operator’s performance shall be conducted at least once every three years.
This means that when you hire a new forklift operator, or someone that might operate a forklift for any reason in your facility, you need to find out what type of equipment they have been trained to operate, how and under what conditions. If your new employee previously operated electric order pickers in a distribution setting and your operation utilizes IC forklifts used outdoors, your new employee will need refresher training using your type of equipment under your conditions. This condition would apply under sections D and E as outlined above.
This could also be said for a current employee transferring from another facility that uses different types of attachments or moves different kinds of products. You would need to provide hands-on training and evaluation for your equipment, how to use it, what it does to capacity rating and how to safety maneuver your goods around your facility.
A new employee may have had training at a previous job, using similar equipment under similar conditions. If however, you as a supervisor determine that the new employee is not exhibiting sufficient knowledge of forklift safety, complete training may be an order. OSHA doesn’t address every situation and condition in it’s standard 1910.178, but it is up to us to carefully evaluate our operators on a regular basis and determine if we think refresher training is needed, or if an employee needs to undergo complete training.
Our goal is to help you achieve the safest and most productive workplace in North Carolina. if you feel you could use a partner in Forklift Operator Training, please Contact Us, or give us a call at 866-393-9833.
Whether you’re trying to improve productivity on your assembly line, in your materials handling operation or in your accounting department, there are a few things that you can do that transcend functional lines and apply to almost all individuals.
Empower – You hired people to do a job. Let them do it! Happy, productive employees have confidence and freedom backed up by employers that support that freedom, to find better ways to do things and yes, make mistakes. Empowering employees that are intelligent and hard working, while still maintaining operating parameters or “rules”, will result in employees that will make significant impacts on your operations.
Inclusiveness – You’ll be surprised with the input you’ll get if you ask. Much like a golf scramble works. In more foursomes none could shoot even par for the course, but combined, four 15 handicappers can shoot below par. Why is this and how is this possible? It’s simple, you’re taking the best of each person on each shot. Now imagine all that latent potential in your employees. Are you utilizing it?
Appreciate – The words “thanks” and “you’re doing a great job” go a long way, but how often are they heard? Like many relationships, time can do damage the gentlemen and ladies we once were. So make a point to appreciate your employee’s efforts and inputs. Mix it up, have pizza parties, send cards, make announcements, but be sure it’s sincere. Employees can smell smoke a mile away.
Each one of your employees has a lot of potential. It’s up to us to find it and put it to work for the productivity and profitability of our companies. And the best managers know how to do it and get the most out of each and every one of them. Good luck, and thanks for reading!