Employee safety is important both to the productivity of your business and the morale of your employees. When you provide the safety equipment your employees need, you communicate that you care about their wellbeing in the workplace.
Safety is also a legal responsibility. OSHA and other state and federal agencies have requirements that you must follow to keep your employees safe. When you do not follow your industry’s safety guidelines, you face the possibility of fines and penalties which could affect your reputation and cost your business.
It is your obligation to perform a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
Know your industry
Depending on your business, your employees could need a range of safety equipment while they are working. The type of safety equipment required by doctors and nurses could be significant different than the type of safety equipment required by farmers or employees who work in a manufacturing setting.
When you are making safety protocols for your company, you should consult with experts in the field, such as:
- Local OSHA representatives
- Industry organizations
- Equipment and product suppliers
When you discuss your company’s needs with others in similar and related businesses, you can learn about the industry standards. If there is an incident in your workplace, taking the initiative to understand the local standards is beneficial.
Minnesota maintains its own Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“MNOSHA”) plan which is approved by federal OSHA, to protect workers at private and public worksites. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry publishes guidelines put out by MNOSHA on its website which can be accessed here.
Guidelines maintained by the federal OSHA including the top 10 most frequently cited standards can be found here.
Talk to your employees
You know your business well, but your employees see first-hand the risks in the workplace. Take time to talk to employees from different business areas about what they see as potential hazards and what near-miss accidents they have seen.
Sometimes there are critical differences between how equipment should work and how it functions on a day-to-day basis. As you establish a trust relationship with your employees, they will be valuable assets to help you see your business’s needs.
Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”)
If your business operates in an environment that is considered hazardous, your employees may require personal protective equipment (“PPE”), such as gloves, foot and eye protection, protective hearing protection (earplugs, muffs), hard hats and/or respirators to help keep them safe.
Common examples of industries where PPE may be necessary include hospitals, clinics, construction sites, and machine shops.
If your employees require PPE it is your obligation as the employer to provide PPE and ensure that it is used properly. You may need to provide training to employees in the use and care of PPE. You cannot require that employees purchase their own PPE, it is your obligation as the employee to provide and maintain PPE.
Know your obligations
The bottom line is that it is your obligation as an employer to be aware of what safety equipment you are required to provide to your employees. Make sure you are monitoring state and federal laws and guidelines and periodically review and update your employee safety programs.