IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Workplace Safety
A safe workplace is sound business. By keeping staff safe, associations and MLSs can reduce the risk of worker compensation claims can foster a positive and safe work environment.
Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a workplace that is safe and free from serious, recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm. Workplaces must comply with the standards, rules and regulations issued by OSHA and any applicable state agency.
To ensure OSHA compliance, a good first step is engaging in a risk assessment to identify any known or serious hazards in the workplace. Working with a local expert can help identify hazards, and provide vulnerability assessments and risk mitigation strategies. Human-caused hazards like crime and workplace violence can be more difficult to predict.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines workplace violence as the act or threat of violence, ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults, directed toward people at work or on duty.
In 2017, OSHA concluded that failure to recognize workplace violence hazards could violate the general duty clause. Therefore, in addition to the physical safety of the conditions an employee works in, associations should also think about what measures they can take to be proactive about the potential for other threats to employees’ safety, including workplace violence.
OSHA has determined that threats of workplace violence arise from crime; individuals served by the business such as members; current and former employees; and individual connected with employees.
Additionally, according to OSHA guidance, these employment situations may pose higher risks of workplace violence:
- Duties that involve the exchange of money.
- Working alone or in small numbers.
- Working late at night or during early morning hours.
- Working in high-crime areas.
- Working in a location with uncontrolled public access to the workplace.
By being proactive, employers can mitigate the risk of workplace violence. Some states even require employers to create a workplace violence prevention plan, and to train their employees on the plan.
Best Practices for Workplace Safety
- Take threats seriously, and encourage staff to speak up about perceived threats.
- Install cameras around the parking lot and the building, to assist law enforcement if a crime takes place outside your building. Post signage that people are being videotaped, which can be a deterrent.
- Invite local law enforcement or a local security expert to speak with staff about safety and security overall. This can help them understand what they need to do personally and how to spot and respond to red flags.
- Review the association’s current safety policies, and consider creating a workplace violence prevention plan. If needed, consult a local security expert to develop the plan.
- Know your state’s weapon laws, and consider adding a weapon policy to association policies. Post signs at all building entrances that weapons are not allowed in the building.
- If any individual threatens violence against an employee, a director or officer, or another member, contact local law enforcement and local legal counsel for guidance.
- Consider disciplining or terminating members or employees who threaten violence, in accordance with the association’s bylaws and policies.