When talking about workplace health and safety, we always speak about how it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure and provide a safe working space. While employers are definitely liable to protect the interests of their staff and keep them safe from untoward incidences, a factor that helps the most in emergency situations are the proactive actions taken by individuals at the right moment.
Apart from maintaining work-floor safety and avoiding common workplace safety mistakes like wet floor, lack of inspections etc., employers must prepare their workforce to be alert and aware of their surroundings. And to achieve this, employers need to deliver timely health and safety training.
Here are some of the health and safety training requirements that an employer must fulfil:
1. Train Employees About Known Potential Hazards
If your field of work has some known hazards, then it would be wise to take appropriate precautions beforehand. Ensuring that your employees are trained in handling equipment, and that they wear the right safety gear at work can prove lifesaving. Hazards can be of two types, one where you may not anticipate that something could go wrong, like natural calamities, and the other where you are aware of the potential dangers around you.
For example, an employee sitting in an office cabin does not have to fear about the ceiling falling on his head, whereas an employee working at a construction site must be cautious of falling objects. Employers must make it compulsory for employees to don the right outfit/gear as suitable for their work environment. Through effective workplace health and safety training program, employers can inform the workers about specific industry hazards and provide information on how to protect themselves from those health hazards.
2. Train Employees on Creating a Safe Environment for Women
Many organizations have made it mandatory for their employees to undertake the POSH training in order to understand what might constitute as a case of harassment and to prevent such things from happening. The POSH law also requires every organization with woman employees to have a redressal cell, whereby the women can file a complaint if needed.
With the rising number of crimes against women, it has become imperative for employers to do their bit to keep them safe while they are in their office premises and while commuting for work and business trips. Creating a course module which highlights the offences and corresponding punishments will create a sense of awareness among employees and create a secure work environment for everyone.
3. Create Awareness about Grievance Forums
If an employee goes ahead and files a complaint against you or your organization with a third party, rather than being hostile towards him/her and retaliating against them, try to find out why s/he did not come to you first. OSHA prescribes a law for the protection of employees who report injuries, safety concerns, or other protected activities. You could be subject to further scrutiny if you retaliate against them for complaining.
In order to avoid a whistle-blowing scenario in the first place, ensure that you have proper grievance cell where employees can come and address their issues without any fear of backlash from the employer. Many a times, employees are not sure whom to approach when they have a concern. Even HR teams have different functions like- business HR, talent acquisition etc.
Creating awareness about which personnel to go to for what kind of problem will give some clarity to the employees and they can then approach the right person when in need.
4. Conduct Health and Well-being Workshops
An employee who is physically or mentally unwell cannot put in their 100 percent at work even if they wish to. As an employer, you must do your bit to ease their stress at work.
Organizing health camps at workplace, giving discount coupons for medical tests and checkups at select places is one way to show that you care for your employees’ health and wellbeing. Conduct workshops on how to deal with various illnesses- whether mental or physical. These kinds of workshops help in making the employees aware of their health and take timely measures to stay fit and healthy.
Keep emergency first-aid kits for minor bruises and abrasions. And a well-stocked medicine cabinet for people in case of sudden illness or discomfort. A training program can cover information about all the safety precautions and availability of emergency resources, allowing employees to be aware about where to find what without wasting time.
5. Provide Training in Disaster Management
Do you have enough provisions in case of a natural disaster? Like we mentioned earlier, this is one of the hazards that we do not anticipate, but we need to be prepared for it. Sometimes, a situation can suddenly escalate to a life-threatening emergency.
Catastrophic weather conditions like storm and hurricane, a fire break-out or a chemical spill can happen without any warning. To deal with such situations, basic disaster management training must be given to the employees so that they are aware of the shelter and meeting/refuge areas, and evacuation routes.
You can conduct drills where employees have to rush to the nearest shelter or hide somewhere safe. Fire drills and shootout drills must be conducted once in a while to remind the employees of the safety precautions to take during an emergency.
This kind of live workplace health and safety training helps them understand the grievousness of the situation, make a calculated move towards safety and help others along the way. Such drills can also be simulated in a mobile training, but you can do that prior to the real training, giving them an idea of what the situation will be like. Disaster management is a skill which does not come to use very often, but when it does, it could save many lives.
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6. Provide Cyber Security Training
As most of our information is stored on computers, it is highly essential to train employees on maintaining data safety and cyber security. An information leak can lead to huge losses for a company.
With the onset of GDPR, preventing data leaks has become more important than ever as it could lead to a fine of 4% of your annual global turnover or €20 million- whichever is higher. Earlier this year, France’s data protection authority announced a $57 million fine against Google. Although cloud storage is the norm these days, that too, could be hacked. Therefore, train your employees on how to deal with sensitive data and customer information.
OSHA has recommended a list of industry-specific as well as general guidelines to be followed by all organizations. Avoiding work-related injuries will not only assure employees that they are safe at their workplace but will also avoid workers compensation.
Workplace health and safety is a combined effort, where employers ensure that all workplace compliance requirements are met, and employees upskill themselves through workplace health and safety training programs to create safe working conditions.