Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has started suing companies who fire employees on the basis of safety rules, after the employees reported an on-the-job injury. But in most cases, it turned out that employees who were terminated for safety violations weren’t fired for unsafe behavior that led to an injury, but for unsafe behavior after they already reported the injury.
So what does that mean? It means that OSHA found out that these companies were not doing enough to enforce safety standards until they found out about an injury, and then fired employees for violations they noticed while they were investigating the injury.
The point, then, is that whether you run a staffing agency or a company that makes use of a staffing franchise, such as AtWork Group, it’s very important to put a discipline program in place for your workers.
A recent survey by Fisher and Phillips of large general contractors found that more than half of the companies with the best safety programs in the U.S. were not satisfied with how they disciplined employees for safety violations. Many also didn’t provide the proper 30-hour OSHA training to supervisors, didn’t formally include safety on performance reviews, or didn’t require supervisors to make regular observation of safety procedure. Combine that with the fact that many supervisors are afraid they will get their own bosses in trouble for reporting safety violations, and that company culture often dictates that discipline is only discussed when lawsuits and other problems present themselves, and you can see what a problem it really is.
So how can you put a safety program in place that employees will stick to? The key is consistent discipline, as outlined by “Safety Daily Advisor.” For it to work, first, workers need to understand the rules, as well as the penalties for violations. There should be several levels of discipline to account for the severity of the safety violation, first offenses, and inadvertent mistakes, especially if these do not cause injury. You could use verbal warnings, written warnings, and suspension, for example. Also, make sure you don’t discipline workers unfairly, perhaps for something for which other employees weren’t disciplined, or something out of their control, such as having outdated gear. However, discipline should be enforced, and training should be kept up to standard. That way, you can gauge who is continuing to violate the rules and who just needs more guidance. Finally, be sure you’re documenting every instance of discipline and site inspection, so you always have a guide for how to proceed in more serious situations.
It might seem like a lot of work to keep up constant enforcement of safety rules, but not only could it protect your workers, it could keep you from facing an OSHA lawsuit. So it’s definitely worthwhile to take these steps.