Workplace safety is so important that a government agency exists solely to monitor and regulate it. OSHA, or the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, was created in 1970 to oversee workplace safety. Its mandate is to provide businesses with awareness programs, education and legal guidelines to keep the American workforce safe. The agency also enforces the rules that it sets up. Safety is not just an issue in warehouses and factories. OSHA watches for workplace safety violations in offices, restaurants, retail stores and auto shops.
Employers have a basic moral obligation to provide for their workers' safety and well-being, regardless of any safety laws. It’s just the right thing to do, because you’re not going to get much work done if you’re dead or maimed. Chances are, you won’t even stick around very long if the workplace is a needlessly hazardous environment. Employers that provide workplace safety training and enact safety policies empower workers to do their best work in a safe manner. Employees who thoroughly understand the potential dangers of their work are more likely to perform tasks with confidence and up to standard. Workplace safety also provides a psychological comfort to workers, creating a more pleasant environment for them to work in.
Workplace safety policies give employees standard operating procedures. Implementing a clear code of workplace safety eliminates needless debates and arguments over the "right way" to perform any task. Standardized procedure, which is central to workplace safety, also gives workers a common understanding of their jobs and the tasks they involve. This eliminates competition and corner-cutting, an allows workers to communicate more effectively. Productivity benefits from the common language that workplace safety provides, as workers know exactly how to perform certain tasks. The benefits carry on when training new employees is simplified.
Workplace safety policies save more money than they cost in the long run. Enforcing safety policies strengthens productivity and decreases the number of worker absences due to injuries. Safety programs and policies reduce costs associated with medical attention, insurance policies, workers' compensation, injury lawsuits and OSHA fees. They substantially decrease the need to rebuild or replace damaged or misused equipment. Additionally, by implementing workplace safety regulations, you reduce the risk of being shut down by regulatory authorities for safety violations.
No business wants to be known as "the place where that worker lost an arm last year," or "the shop down the street that got sued." An unsafe work environment eventually gets noticed, and the news can be more than unflattering. Customers stop coming when they believe a business doesn’t care about its staff -- or its customers. In the long run, it’s much better for a business to have the reputation of rigorous adherence to safety laws, than getting the job done quickly but haphazardly. Workplace safety is a form of positive PR for a business.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."