One of the major concerns for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in Minnesota and throughout the country is violence in the workplace.
Sadly, homicides make up a major portion of that violence. According to the Bureau of Statistics, over 200 murders occurred on the job in the early 1990s. The number has decreased over the years, with 94 murders reported in 2006, but homicides are still a major factor.
OSHA defines violence as threats, verbal abuse, physical abuse, assault or homicide and is concerned about both workplace violence and the threat of violence against workers. Over 2 million Americans are victimized by workplace violence every year, blue collar workers and professionals alike. OSHA recommends several steps to help prevent violence on the job.
OSHA suggests equipping workers with cell phones and hand-held alarms, providing a safe drop for employees so less cash is on hand, and installing alarms, additional lighting and video surveillance cameras.
All employers should also establish an antiviolence program in the workplace. Detailed safety measures should be provided in writing to the employees (normally in the employee handbook), and all workers should be trained how to prevent and how to react to violent scenarios.
Zero tolerance by employers toward workplace violence is especially helpful as a deterrent. Companies need to ensure that all workers understand the antiviolence programs and know that violent incidents should be reported immediately. Businesses are required to promptly investigate and remedy these scenarios.
Unfortunately, certain occupations put workers at higher risk for violence, particularly jobs where employees deal with the public. These occupations include utility workers, cab drivers, mail carriers (and all workers who deliver packages, goods and services), and employees who provides social services (healthcare workers, social workers probation officers).
As a safety measure, outside salespeople and others who work away from an office should file their work plan with their employer and call in on a regular basis with their whereabouts.
For further information, employers can contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to obtain material on preventing workplace violence.
Safety in the workplace comes under the jurisdiction of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). One of the major concerns of OSHA is violence in the workplace.
OSHA defines violence as ranging from threats to physical assault and even homicide. When a violent incident occurs, even if the employee doesn’t think the threat is serious, the incident should be reported and investigated immediately. The General Duty Clause of OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment and will impose severe penalties upon employers that fail to comply.
When a worker is exposed to violence or threat of violence, employees should get the worker medical attention. Next, the police need to be notified and the employee must be advised of his or her legal rights to press charges against the perpetrators.
Among the coworkers, a counseling session or stress debriefing session should be set up, along with a meeting to discuss the attack and how to prevent future assaults.
These measures should already be a part of the company’s safety and antiviolence programs, and should be practiced just like a fire drill. Each worker needs to know how to recognize and how to report threats of violence.
Employers should also encourage employees to follow certain steps to help protect against violence both in the workplace and out of it. When dealing with the public, workers should limit cash on hand and carry only required I. D. Employees traveling alone, particularly to an unfamiliar site or scenario, should take pains not to arrive late at night.
Employees should report an incident as soon as it occurs, including maintenance and security issues. A fire door that doesn’t close completely or a lost electronic key card can be a threat to the work environment, too.
Reporting even the smallest incident can help prevent future ones, because workers who escalate to violent behavior against coworkers often give warning signs. An employee who verbally abuses a coworker, destroys company property or pokes a colleague in the arm might be foreshadowing problems to come.
Wetting asbestos is one of the best ways to minimize its toxic dust, according to a recent Minnesota OSHA alert. The tiny particles of asbestos can be inhaled, and are a severe health risk. Another acceptable system is storing any parts containing asbestos in sealed and labeled plastic bags.
A recent Minnesota worker safety alert explains the best methods of reducing the risks associated with asbestos in auto repair shops. Two recommended procedures to control asbestos fibers include the negative pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system and the low pressure/wet cleaning.
The OSHA alert warns that asbestos still poses a danger in the workplace. Some older models of trucks and cars have asbestos in the brakes and clutches. Asbestos can break into tiny particles that threaten the health of mechanics and other workers. New cars do not contain asbestos in the clutches and brakes.
OSHA strongly recommends that consumers avoid making any repairs to clutch and brake systems themselves. Instead, the work should be entrusted to a professional who can handle the asbestos safely.
Asbestos is so dangerous because it disintegrates into tiny, invisible particles that spread in the air. Once inhaled, the particles remain in the lungs forever. Workers can develop asbestos-related diseases, even years later. Some common illnesses caused by asbestos include gastrointestinal cancer, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. About 10,000 people die in the US each year because of asbestos-related illnesses.
An alternative system to control asbestos, according to OSHA, is the spray can/solvent method. Both the wet method and the spray can/solvent method are acceptable only in shops that do few repairs on brakes and clutches. OSHA has approved these methods only for auto shops where 5 or fewer brake and clutch jobs are done each week.
The recent Minnesota worker safety alert reminds employers, especially in auto repair shops, that they are responsible for creating a written plan for handling asbestos in the workplace. Employers must train workers to handle asbestos safely. Failure to establish such procedures, or not following them, is a violation of state and federal regulations. In addition, it can pose a serious health risk for everyone in the shop – not just the workers.