Workplace Safety

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Maintaining and improving workplace safety is in the interests of all parties, even when the costs of safety programs, resources and enforcement are factored in. (Indeed, enforcement costs can be catastrophic if imposed as penalties in litigation.) Because safety hazards include natural disasters (such as earthquakes and epidemics) and incidents resulting from intentional actions, e.g., workplace violence, safety risks and dangerous events are not limited to accidents. Therefore to make a workplace as safe as possible, organizations and their staff must prepare for and respond effectively to all such dangers.

This means providing, among other things, safety information that is effective both in form and content. A safety sign that contains the correct information, but in faint or faded colors, is almost as bad as no signage at all. Having safety-oriented information clutter or confusion may subvert the objective of safety and actually jeopardize it. Likewise, it is not enough for safety training to be relevant; it also has to be effective, e.g., motivating, well-retained and utilized with reflex speed.

Workplace safety is the preservation of the health and well-being of employees from the time they arrive at a job site until the time they leave. This means limiting risks that arise from dangerous substances, dangerous tasks, and even workplace violence. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 sets forth guidelines for how to keep employees safe. These guidelines are put into effect by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (or its counterpart in other countries and regions).

Organizations are legally (as well as morally) responsible to provide a safe environment for employees. Managers should make sure that all employees abide by rules and that the proper equipment and comprehensive information is readily available. Human resources departments must see that every employee is trained on how to minimize risks on the job and to report them or accidents/incidents. Employees are responsible on an individual level to abide by the rules, use common sense, and take care to prevent accidents.

Organizations that do not follow OSHA guidelines face penalties and lawsuits that result from injuries or injunctions based on risk of injuries. It is therefore more cost effective to invest in prevention. In addition, employees are able to perform their jobs better when they feel that they are not being exposed to unnecessary risks.

To the extent that some companies are under pressure to offer "hazard pay", e.g., for divers at remote oil-rig sites, the safer they make the job, the more pay-package negotiating room they can expect to have.

If the psychologist Abraham Maslow was right in suggesting that safety is among the "prepotent", i.e., most primary, human needs that must be satisfied before any others can, failure to provide a safe environment is likely to make it difficult for workers to satisfy other needs, e.g., for "belonging", such as feeling like they are part of a team, or "self-actualization" (self-fulfillment). On the other hand, e.g., in combat, ever-present danger can actually promote team cohesiveness-which, nonetheless, should not be taken to suggest that danger is "a good thing" in any organization.
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