Hearing Employee Safety Concerns

15 Aug
Employee Safety Concerns

Safety

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Safe + Sound Week

Safety programs work when employees actively participate in them. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, they tend to work even better when employees are involved in establishing, operating, evaluating, and improving them. That is because employees know and understand the potential hazards of doing their jobs.

Top of the List

Many different organizations have conducted surveys on the top safety concerns for workers. The identified concerns often vary by industry due to the types of job activities performed. And, not surprisingly, some concerns align with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Top 10 Safety Violations (e.g., trips, slips, and falls).

Regardless industry, there are similarities in some of the health and safety concerns employees have, particularly in those organizations with barriers to effective safety communication. Some of the top health and safety issues that are often overlooked by employers—and ones that don’t necessarily hit OSHA’s Top 10— include the following:

  • Stress and distractions. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as “the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can, in turn, lead to poor health and even injury.” Long days, increased workload, and increased competition for workers’ attention can lead to lower productivity, more physical and mental illnesses, and the inability to anticipate potential hazards.
  • Poor ergonomics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of worker injury and illness cases are musculoskeletal disorders resulting from poor ergonomics. Workers across all industries are at risk of musculoskeletal injuries from things like repetitive tasks, lifting heavy objects, or working at a desk for prolonged periods of time without proper breaks.
  • Spread of illnesses. One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased awareness of the risks associated with spreading illnesses in the workplace. Workers are more cognizant of those with illnesses around them and, subsequently, are becoming less hesitant to call off work if they are feeling under the weather.
  • Working alone. While working alone is common in many industries, that does not make the practice inherently safe. Working alone and/or without proper surveillance means workers are at an increased risk of serious injury with no one to call for help or to provide medical attention in the event an incident occurs.
  • Temporary workers. With staffing shortages impacting nearly every industry, temporary workers are becoming more common. Unfortunately, temporary workers are the most likely to perform dangerous tasks due to inadequate training on job-specific hazards. This lack of adequate training is not only a risk to the temporary worker, but also to any permanent workers who work along side them. Workers are aware of the lack of safety-specific training for temporary workers and feel the responsibility falls unduly on to them.

Addressing Concerns

Not every employee feels safe to bring up safety concerns with their company. It is important that organizations have many avenues available for employees to bring forward issues they see in a way that is comfortable for them and without retribution. These avenues can be weekly safety meetings as a team, a monitored company email address, or even something as simple as an anonymous suggestion box. Giving adequate time to listening to employee safety concerns increases trust between workers and the company, shows leadership consistency, and aids in employee retention.

Can your company bear the cost of your employees’ concerns falling on deaf ears?

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