Critical Conversations

Critical Conversations: A Guide To Essential Employee Communication

The effectiveness of your employee conversations impacts nearly every aspect of work: from productivity and innovation…to engagement, workplace safety, and retention…to your own success as a manager or leader. Whether the topic is simple or complex, straightforward or potentially contentious, use these strategies to have honest, meaningful conversations that drive positive change.

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Do You Know These 4 Safety Musts?

Worksites are dangerous places. There are power tools and heavy machinery in use. There may be debris falling from a height. It’s why so many construction sites are fenced off from public access. Of course, as an employee, you also face dangers on the site. That’s why you need to know these four safety musts.  

Use the Right Tool 

Job sites can come under intense pressure to get things done now if a project falls behind. This can lead to on-site shortcuts like using whatever tool comes to hand rather than getting the right tool. Using the wrong tool for a job is a very good way to end up with an unnecessary injury or to damage something on the worksite. Plus, as often as not, you end spending more time trying to get the wrong tool to work than you would have spent getting the right tool.  

Don’t Overwork Yourself 

Experienced workers know how dangerous it can be to show up to work exhausted. Power tools and heavy machinery do not mix well with sleep deprivation. Too little sleep not only makes you dangerous to yourself, but it also makes you dangerous to your coworkers. Being overtired diminishes your reflexes. It also impairs your judgment almost as much as drinking a couple of beers before work. Do your best to set up your schedule so you can get enough sleep before work. 

Use the Safety Gear Your Company Provides 

Companies don’t provide safety gear on a whim. They do it because safety gear prevents injuries. They also do it in some cases because the law requires them to do it. If the state or federal government passed a law about it, you have to know some pretty bad things happened first. You should make a point of learning wear the safety gear is stored, as well as any first aid equipment. That empowers you to get your gear as soon as you arrive and to offer first aid help quickly in the event that someone is injured.  

Don’t Accept Tasks You Aren’t Qualified to Do 

It can be tough to say no when your supervisor or manager asks you to do something. It can also be extremely dangerous to say yes if you aren’t trained for the task. You need to know your own skillset so you can explain why you shouldn’t be given a task, but say that you’re willing to learn if someone knowledgeable will show you.  

Be Safety-Minded 

The best way for you to stay safe is to be safety-minded. Understand the limits of your skills. Say no when someone asks to work beyond them. Use your safety gear, even if you think it’s foolish. Retrieve the right tool for the job. Get enough sleep. Taken as a group, all of these actions will help you get home unhurt.  

Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016

Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety

Filed in Español, Safety By on October 18, 2016 

a worker climbs a piece of scaffolding wearing proper fall protection

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

Departments of Labor and Justice launch initiative to cooperate on investigation and prosecution of workplace safety violations

Departments of Labor and Justice launch initiative to cooperate on investigation and prosecution of workplace safety violations

From OSHA Quick Takes
January 4, 2016, Volume 15, Issue 1

The Department of Labor and the Department of Justice have established a new initiative to prevent and deter crimes that jeopardize the lives and health of workers. The initiative strengthens the ability of the two departments to investigate and prosecute employers who fail to provide a safe workplace for their employees. Deputy Secretary of Labor Chris Lu joined Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in signing the agreement during a ceremony at the Dept. of Justice on Dec. 17.

The Memorandum of Understanding calls for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration, and Wage and Hour Division to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations. The worker safety statutes generally provide for only misdemeanor penalties, and the new initiative will encourage them to use the federal criminal and penal code and environmental offenses, which often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, to enhance penalties and increase deterrence.