Can an Employer Discipline Safety Violators?

I have employees who are literally accidents waiting to happen because they neverquestion-685060_1280 seem to think before they take action. We have way too many Workers’ Comp claims. However, our foremen and supervisors don’t seem to be able to solve this problem. Can we discipline – or even terminate – employees for
“no brainer” injuries? 

The answer to your question is “Yes” and “No.”

We’ll explain what we mean and elaborate on some points which may be helpful to you.

Disciplinary action should not result from an employee filing a Workers’ Comp claim or reporting a possible safety hazard. But disciplinary action typically may result when an employee knowingly and repeatedly ignores or violates a known company policy. The key word here is “known.”

How can you prove (if necessary) that your employee “knew” the policy, rule or procedure? Put your company policies and procedures in writing and have your employees sign an acknowledgement form that they received and read them.

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OSHA Issues New Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Serious Injuries; Data to be Made Public

On Sept. 11, 2014, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) announced a final rule which greatly expands the scope of injuries that must be reported to OSHA on an expedited basis.  Currently, employers only have an affirmative obligation to report an injury/illness to OSHA under the following circumstances:

  1. A work-related fatality (within 8 hours)
  2. The hospitalization of three or more employees (within 8 hours)
  3. The occurrence of a point-of-operation injury on a mechanical power press (within 30 days).

Under the revised standard, an employer has the following mandatory reporting obligations effective Jan. 1, 2015:

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Medical Emergency at the Worksite? Take Steps to Prepare

There are workplace safety rules for almost every conceivable category of jobs or tasks, courtesy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The underlying law* also requires employers to provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”  That requirement falls under the “general duty” clause of law.  You can be cited for violating that requirement if a “recognized hazard” is present, and you don’t do anything to eliminate or at least mitigate it.

In addition, according to OSHA, employers must provide medical and first aid personnel and supplies “commensurate with the hazards of the workplace.”  Of course, as OSHA states, the needs of your company’s first aid program “are dependent on the circumstances of each workplace and employer.”  If OSHA finds your first aid program doesn’t adequately address the hazards of your workplace, the agency might step in to enforce its own standards.

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