The Complete Risk Management and Compliance Guide

How to Ensure Workplace Safety

Understanding Risk Management and Compliance

One of the most important tasks of any business owner or Human Resources (HR) professional is to ensure the health and safety of employees. Risk management is the process used to identify, assess and control possible threats and workplace injuries. This is also called risk mitigation.

Of course, the nature of threats or injuries will be different depending on your company and industry. A manufacturing plant will have different risks than an office setting.

Compliance management is another area of concern for senior leadership and HR professionals. The purpose of compliance management is to ensure adherence to state and federal laws guidelines, including OSHA regulations. It also ensures that a company follows its own policies.

OSHA Compliance

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970 with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It was designed to provide workplace safety standards that prevented unsafe and unhealthy work conditions.

OSHA is responsible for implementing policies and guidelines that are meant to keep workers safe. Employers must be aware of OSHA standards for their industry and follow any changes. Non-compliance can result in severe consequences, including liability, legal action and fines.

There are several common OSHA violations that can impact your business, including:

Inadequate fall protection
Employers must provide adequate fall protection to conform with OSHA standard 1926.501. This means that additional safety features need to be added, including:

  • Safety nets
  • Guard rails
  • Personal fall arrest systems

Failed hazard communication
Improper labeling, classification and/or employee training regarding hazardous materials. If there is a hazardous material on the job site, it must be labeled appropriately, and all employees are trained on the safe handling of the material.

No lockout devices on hazardous equipment
All machinery must have a lockout device. This is designed to prevent mechanical equipment from starting during maintenance.

Improper use of ladders
This is also related to fall prevention. Ladders, like scaffolding, have load capacities. It can include ladders that are not up to code or ones that are misused.

Identifying the Risks

Now that we’ve discussed some of the top OSHA violations, it’s time to determine the risks within your company.

It all starts with accessing the known or possible risks associated with your business or industry. This includes assessing risks related to workplace injuries.

Workplace injuries happen all the time, even in relatively “safe” office environments.

To protect your employees, it’s helpful to know the most common types of injuries. Many of these injuries result in workers’ compensation claims or missed work.

The top workplace injury categories include:

  • Overexertion (lifting/lowering or repetitive motions) – Comprise 33.54% of all workplace injuries
  • Incidents involving equipment or objects (caught in equipment/objects, struck by equipment/objects, struck/caught/crushed by falling equipment/objects) – Comprise 26% of workplace injuries
  • Slips, trips and falls (falling to lower level/falling on the same level) – Comprise 25.8% of workplace injuries

Falls, cuts and sprains represent dramatic injuries that are easy to identify. However, it’s important to remember that some claims are related to injuries that happen over time.

These are called repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), also called overuse injuries, repetitive strain injuries or cumulative trauma depending on the state. RSIs are the result of motions or postures over a long time. Examples of RSIs include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Rotator cuff syndrome
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Lower back pain

It’s important to take RSIs into account when you gather data to create a risk assessment and mitigation plan.

Risk Assessment and Management

Conducting a risk assessment will ultimately protect your employees and your business while ensuring compliance with all state and federal regulations.

Your goal is to assess each of the categories and determine possible risks and threats. There are five steps for assessing risk.

1. Gather data
First you want to collect all of the information relating to workplace injuries in your company and industry-wide. This might include OSHA logs, property damage reports, chemical releases, and workplace audits of competing companies.

You want to know how many injuries occurred, who was injured, how they were injured and what caused the incidents.

2. Conduct a visual tour
Once you have the data, it’s time to assess the business or facility for yourself. Talk to your managers, supervisors, and employees to get their feedback. They understand your unique needs and risks better than anyone else.

3. Identifying possible risks
Now you need to pinpoint the risks your workers face. Assess threats and opportunities, the results of potential injuries, vulnerabilities and emerging risks.

Most risks fall in one of four categories:

  • Physical – Injuries related to falls, slips, excessive vibration, loud noises, injuries from objects or equipment
  • Ergonomic – This are injuries related to repetitive motions and postures
  • Chemical – Injuries or illnesses related to exposure to hazardous substances
  • Biological – Illnesses that are the result of exposure to bacteria or viruses, such as hepatitis

4. Conduct a risk analysis
A risk analysis will help you prioritize potential threats so you can come up with protocols and policies that will mitigate them. It includes considering possible events, the likelihood of an event, likely scenarios, and controls that may prevent them.

5. Conduct a risk evaluation
Once you’ve completed the risk analysis, the final step is conducting an evaluation of your findings based on objective criteria such as industry standards and/or state guidelines. Then decide if you need to make changes to lower or eliminate risks.

The goal of performing a risk assessment to identify on-the-job hazards is to keep employees safe.

Workplace injuries are one of the biggest and costliest threats to any business. Aside from the human factor, injuries can also end up costing you financially in terms of lost production, workers’ compensation payments, and an increase in insurance premiums.

Create Risk Mitigation Plan to Keep Employees Safe

Once possible threats have been identified, it’s time to develop a plan to mitigate those risks. This should help prevent or reduce incidents of workplace injuries.

There are four steps you can take:

  • Update. Update, replace or fix old facilities or equipment.
  • Train. It might be time for new or additional employee training. You can also hold safety drills to support the training.
  • Procedures. Implement new policies and procedures to improve safety if needed.
  • Educate. Drills and training are both excellent ideas, but you might need to back it up with new signage, training manuals and regular safety meetings.

Your plan should also include standard procedures for handling accidents, illnesses or injuries in the workplace. Once the risk mitigation plan is completed, distribute it to all your managers, supervisors and employees, so everyone understands and is committed to maintaining a safe work environment.

Understanding Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation insurance is required for most businesses that employ someone else. While we tend to think of factories or construction sites as “dangerous,” even office settings have potential hazards, from tripping over a cord to ergonomic issues related to office furniture, computers or other equipment.

Workers’ compensation covers employees who are injured on the job or who develop a work-related illness. The incidents might happen on company property or be related to work-related activities that happen off-site. A driver who is injured in an accident while making a delivery would be covered, for instance.

Although most states mandate that employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance, the requirements are different in each state. High-risk industries generally have more requirements.

The amount of coverage you need is based on two factors:

  • Risks to your employees. Factors associated with your industry or type of business
  • Your financial risks. States with a higher cost of living usually have higher workers’ comp rates

Workers’ Compensation Fraud

Another issue to be concerned about is workers’ compensation fraud. While the benefit is meant to protect employees who are injured on the job, it is a potential area of fraud. Companies lose billions due to fraudulent claims every year. This can drive up insurance premiums and other costs.

There are several types of workers’ compensation fraud, including:

  • Hurt off the job
  • Exaggerated injury
  • Fake injury
  • Old injury
  • Malingering (the injury has healed, but the employee claims he/she is still too hurt to work)
  • Double-dipping (working at one job while receiving workers’ comp benefits from another)

It’s important to take steps to mitigate workers’ compensation fraud by monitoring and checking in with injured employees. You may also be able to modify the employee’s duties so he/she can continue to work.

Creating a Safer Workplace

If you haven’t realized it by now, ensuring worker safety is a critical task of senior management and HR professionals. Conducting a full risk assessment to ensure your business is compliant with OSHA regulations and that you have identified the safety concerns to create a comprehensive safety plan is a huge undertaking. One that you don’t have to take on alone.

StaffLink Outsourcing is here to help you with risk management and compliance, including workplace safety assessment, risk mitigation, workers’ compensation compliance and OSHA compliance. We can also help manage a variety of other HR duties, including benefits administration, payroll and other compliance issues, from insurance and tax filings to employment issues.

StaffLink Outsourcing has been in business for 25 years, and we have the lowest attrition in the industry. We are devoted to our clients and deliver white glove customer service. Call 954.423.8262 for a quote, and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn for more information and resources relating to your HR needs.

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