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Essential HR Policies: Workplace Safety Policies

HR Policies Workplace Safety Policies Columbus, OH

You may think workplace safety policies only apply to “dangerous” environments like factories, construction, or even health care. But a variety of federal and state laws require nearly all employers to provide a safe workplace. And employer’s legal obligations have become increasingly complex in light of the ongoing pandemic. Small businesses and nonprofits in all sectors need to recognize the importance of addressing safety concerns in the workplace. In this installment of our Essential HR Policies series, we take a look at what you should consider when drafting or updating your workplace safety policies.

OSHA Responsibilities
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) require nearly all employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees regardless of the size of the business. Among other things, OSHA generally requires employers to:

  • Properly maintain tools and equipment.
  • Provide appropriate training for employees to safely perform their jobs.
  • Warn employees of potential hazards.
  • Establish policies and procedures for employees to follow health and safety requirements.
  • Post the OSHA poster informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Report work-related fatalities and certain work-related injuries and keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses; however, there are exceptions for employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain low-hazard industries.
  • Refrain from retaliating against whistleblowers.

Note: COVID is considered a recognized hazard. Therefore, your workplace safety policies should also adopt the CDC’s recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As of this writing, it remains to be seen whether larger employers will be required to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or subjected to weekly testing.

What should you consider when drafting or updating workplace safety policies?
Complying with your responsibilities as an employer under OSHA will vary from one employer to another. As you consider drafting or updating your workplace safety policies, you should address the common safety issues that can occur in any workplace: fire, weather emergencies, medical emergencies, violence in the workplace, the spread of COVID-19, etc. But also consider your particular industry and its unique workplace hazards, as well as your organization’s operating procedures and workplace culture.
Workplace safety policies should also address when and how to report accidents and illnesses and the potential consequences for failing to do so. Your policies may also address whether drug testing will be required after accidents and the consequences for failing to cooperate in mandatory drug testing.

Special Rules for Employing Minors
If your small business or nonprofit employ minors, then you should also be aware of additional obligations the law imposes to protect minors from unsafe working conditions. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally prohibits employers from hiring minors before they reach age 14 or from hiring minors to work in certain hazardous jobs.
Ohio also has specific requirements that can be found in Chapter 4109 of the Ohio Revised Code:

  • Minors aged 14-17 must obtain a work permit.
  • Wages or compensation must be agreed upon, and we always recommend getting your agreements in writing.
  • Minors must be provided with a 30-minute break for every 5 consecutive hours worked.
  • Employers must post a conspicuous list of minors employed at each establishment.
  • Employers must maintain written records showing the hours a minor worked, including start and stop times and breaks, for at least 2 years, although we generally recommend keeping your personnel files for longer.

There are also rules governing the hours during which minors are allowed to work, depending on both the minor’s age and whether the minor is working during the school year versus summer and holidays.

Workplace safety is a very broad topic that every employer needs to consider from multiple angles. If you need assistance drafting or updating your HR policies schedule a consultation below.

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