Violence in the workplace often erupts without warning, and can have tragic results. Taking steps to prevent these situations can improve safety in your workplace, improve employee satisfaction and lead to increased productivity. Conversely, ignoring potential hazards can result in employee injury, even death — and legal action at considerable costs to the company.
OSHA has outlined five steps you can take to identify and prevent these violent encounters before they happen. While they are not directly related to materials handling operations, we feel these guidelines can apply to a wide variety of organizations, including your company.
Management Commitment and Employee Participation
As with any initiative, without the commitment of management and leadership, the rank-and-file of the organization will likely ignore any efforts to improve safety with regards to violence. Company leadership must be involved on a regular basis and visibly endorse the effort. This can be achieved by establishing a safety and health committee, and having leadership rotate in and out of meetings conducted by the committee.
Management must articulate a policy and establish goals for the company. Once a plan has been developed, leadership should allocate sufficient resources to accomplish the goals and uphold program performance expectations. Providing resources could entail meetings with health professionals to help identify potential hazards, creating visible signage and using other communication methods to keep workers involved in and aware of the program.
Worksite Analysis and Hazard Identification
There are probably facets of your operation that are prone to producing higher anxiety or tension among your employees. These could be actual physical conditions such as heat, cold, and hazardous areas as well as departments that demand high productivity, or even interaction with the public. Taking stock of these areas and identifying factors that are the least or most likely to create a stressful atmosphere are key to prevention. Two steps you can take to identify and prevent violence include:
- Conducting job hazard analysis – Management can conduct surveys of their departments to assess the potential risk of violence among employees. This not only includes internal assessments, but assessments of destinations to which your employees may travel, including specific neighborhoods, time of day, etc. Sites that expose your employees to violent behavior are often outside the walls of your facility.
- Conduct employee surveys – Employees will often tell you if their jobs create stressful situations for them and if they feel endangered by some of their job tasks. Conduction of reviews on a regular basis will help you identify these areas and create a plan to reduce danger.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Once management has established and articulated its commitment, and evaluations have taken place, a plan to reduce potential hazards must be implemented. This step includes:
- Identification and evaluation of control options for workplace hazards
- Selection of effective and feasible controls to eliminate or reduce hazards
- Implementation of these controls
- Follow up to confirm these controls are being used and maintained
- Evaluate effectiveness and improve, expand or update these controls as needed
Safety and Health Training
As with any program you want to succeed, employees must be trained in order to follow the steps outlined by the company to identify and report these risks and follow up as needed.
This training could include meetings with mental health experts to help identify signs of stress in colleagues that could lead to violence. It also can include training on how to avoid violence outside your facility by taking common-sense actions (such as parking under a street lamp), what to do if an employee feels threatened and even self-defense training. Other training topics can include:
- The company’s workplace policy on violence prevention
- Documentation and reporting
- Location, operation and coverage of safety devices such as alarms
- Ways to identify and deal with hostile situations
- A standard response plan for violent situations
Recordkeeping and Program Evaluation
Recordkeeping includes reporting procedures, what gets reported and to whom, and how these records are kept. Keeping track of both “close calls” and actual events helps you identify patterns, areas of particular concern and even certain job functions that might be creating undue stress on employees. It can help you identify areas outside your facility that present a danger to your employees, such as areas of town they serve.
OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300) can help you organize information not only for reporting to your proper internal sources but also for reporting to OSHA if necessary. As of January 2015, all employers must report:
- All work-related fatalities within 8 hours
- All work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours
Injuries sustained as a result of assault must be entered on the log if they meet OSHA’s recording criteria (CFR Part 1904, revised 2014).
Keeping track helps you improve your program, improve employee safety and ensure your employees are operating in a safe and productive work environment.
We hope this summary is helpful to you in establishing your own workplace violence prevention plan. To learn more about what you can do, download the complete “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence) by OSHA, HERE. While it was prepared for healthcare and social service workers, the overall content of this guide can assist any company, big or small, in achieving a safer work environment for all.
In recent articles about forklift fleet service, we have discussed the benefits of properly maintaining your equipment. There is no doubt that companies that engage in robust and comprehensive equipment maintenance save money in the long run and improve the efficiency of their forklift fleets.
Establishing a program that proactively maintains your equipment to maximize productivity takes just a bit of work. But with the right partner by your side, the process can be much easier to set up and manage. Following are three tips we suggest in order to establish programs that maximize productivity and reduce your overall costs.
We observe, most of the time, that all equipment in your facility are not utilized the same way or under the same conditions. Some equipment might sit idle for a few hours each day and lift/transport far less overall weight. We suggest not only analyzing the hours each piece of equipment is used, but also how it is used. A piece of equipment used outdoors will required more attention than the same piece of equipment used indoors in a warehouse setting. Using both quantitative and qualitative information will help you develop a service plan that treats each piece of equipment uniquely and provides for the proper level of maintenance.
Quantitative Information – This would include the number of hours used each year, the average weight of each load hauled, service history, equipment age and any other quantitative information available through any type of fleet management software you may use.
Qualitative Information – This information is usually observation-oriented and includes the type of conditions under which each forklift operates, and the training or experience level of the operator. This observation would also include the types of loads each piece of equipment hauls. Hauling seafood off the dock versus processing retail-ready seafood, for example, will result in two very different wear-and-tear scenarios.
Although they are required by OSHA, we have found that most companies do not perform pre-shift inspections. And we can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten a call from a customer who has had to lock out a unit as a result of a pre-shift inspection because the unit is not fit for operation.
Pre-shift inspections will results in catching small maintenance issues before they blossom into giant repair headaches and dangerous scenarios. Performing inspections also reduces your liability should an accident occur during a shift. Being able to provide a recent and thorough inspection prior to operating the equipment will help your cause dramatically, should litigation occur.
You can find pre-shift inspection forms on our website HERE.
Having a service partner who has the experience, skills and trained repair staff to work with you is a major key to a successful program. Not all service providers are created equal; selecting one based on price could result in spending more without reaping the benefits. Instead, select a partner that has demonstrated to you that they understand your equipment, your operation and have the trained staff to execute your service plan. Doing so will give you the desired outcome for your operation. To help ascertain the ability of your potential service partner, inquire about the following:
- Training that the service technicians receive (formal and informal)
- Experience level of service staff (including technicians)
- Level of experience in servicing your type of equipment
- References from other clients that utilized similar equipment under similar operating conditions
- Visit their facility to see how it operates. You can pick up pretty quickly whether the facility is organized and professionally represented.
Taking the time to establish a comprehensive service program takes a bit more work up-front, but in the long run it pays for itself many times over. To discuss your service program with our trained staff of service professionals, please contact us, or call us at 888-530-1832.
Whether you’re trying to improve productivity on your assembly line, in your materials handling operation or in your accounting department, there are a few things that you can do that transcend functional lines and apply to almost all individuals.
Empower – You hired people to do a job. Let them do it! Happy, productive employees have confidence and freedom backed up by employers that support that freedom, to find better ways to do things and yes, make mistakes. Empowering employees that are intelligent and hard working, while still maintaining operating parameters or “rules”, will result in employees that will make significant impacts on your operations.
Inclusiveness – You’ll be surprised with the input you’ll get if you ask. Much like a golf scramble works. In more foursomes none could shoot even par for the course, but combined, four 15 handicappers can shoot below par. Why is this and how is this possible? It’s simple, you’re taking the best of each person on each shot. Now imagine all that latent potential in your employees. Are you utilizing it?
Appreciate – The words “thanks” and “you’re doing a great job” go a long way, but how often are they heard? Like many relationships, time can do damage the gentlemen and ladies we once were. So make a point to appreciate your employee’s efforts and inputs. Mix it up, have pizza parties, send cards, make announcements, but be sure it’s sincere. Employees can smell smoke a mile away.
Each one of your employees has a lot of potential. It’s up to us to find it and put it to work for the productivity and profitability of our companies. And the best managers know how to do it and get the most out of each and every one of them. Good luck, and thanks for reading!