Employees can function optimally when their work environment is harmonious and least stressful. Under such circumstances, employers would benefit as productivity would improve and work-related objectives achieved as planned. However, for such a scenario to prevail, the safety and security of employers should be prioritized. Both workers and employers have a role to play to ensure that the workplace is safe and secure. Potential issues when dealing with workplace safety and security includes enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), identification and elimination of potential risk and hazards, defining roles for employers and employees, and staying updated on the implications of breaking down stipulated guidelines.
In governing the interests of workers and employees across different workplaces in the US, the main law enforced is OSHA. Developed and enacted in 1970, OSHA is the main legal framework used to address workplace safety issues ranging from minor injuries, serious injuries, and even death (Mathis et al., 2016). While it was opposed in its early days by employers for its cost implications and feasibility, OSHA has become a key component of the modern workplace. OSHA has subsequently raised awareness about work safety and has set standards that govern record keeping, hazard communication, chemical exposure, personal protective equipment (PPE), working in confined spaces, process safety management, and fall protection (Fairfax, 2020). Effectively, OSHA was designed to take care of the safety interests of all people at work and to ensure that they are protected from harm and exploitation.
There are Biblical scriptures that illustrate why OSHA is an important tool for the workplace. According to Proverbs 11:14 of the New King James Version, “where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety”. The verse implies that there is need for a framework to be established in a given place to ensure that safety is upheld. In today’s work environment, safety-related counsel is enshrined in the provisions of OSHA. The Act prescribes best practices related to safety and recommends actions that can be taken to facilitate a safe work environment. The Bible equally commends such an action explaining that wise counsel is needed for safety to endure.
All issues that pertain to a workplace need to have some form of safety guidelines. All workplace security and safety guidelines need to not only identify, but give steps to addressing each issue. According to Mathis et al. (2016), workplace safety standards govern a multitude of issues including hazard communication, blood borne pathogens, infectious diseases, injuries, illness, pandemic guidelines, and personal protective equipment. It is the duty of each employer to address these issues in detail. Given the differences in workplaces, there are some areas that may take priority over others. For instance, the workplace safety guidelines of a construction site will prioritize certain elements that may not necessarily be prioritized by a healthcare work environment. It is the duty of managers and supervisors of a given work environment to outline the priorities and relay such information to its workers.
In addition, the identification and elimination of potential risk and hazards is another key issue in workplace security and safety. While workplaces are different in design and function, some of the potential risks and hazards are largely similar. A broad categorization of hazards is that they are either safety or health related. Safety hazards include those that can lead to a worker suffering immediate injury whereas health hazards are those that deal with exposure to certain harmful substances or circumstances and have the potential to cause both short and long term health effects (Bello, 2012). Despite their differences, both safety and health hazards have to be prevented accordingly at every workplace.
Safety hazards vary in severity and from one workplace to another. Sources safety hazards include point of operation, machinery, poorly grounded electrical equipment, uninsulated saw blade, pinch points, flying chips, wet floors, tool protection edges, and fire hazards (Bello, 2012). Safety hazards such as wet floors can be prevented by encouraging keenness or asking employees to adhere to certain standards of operating machinery which may potentially harm them. For instance, a warning on the risks of a fall from a wet floor can be put up in places where the risk of slipping and falling is high. Similarly, warning signs on the potential of an electrical hazard could be used to encourage employees to work keenly when in such an area.
Unlike safety hazards, health hazards require more comprehensive prevention measures. Since their adverse effects are often revealed after a long period, it is highly likely that an employee would fail to recognize whenever they are endangered. Some sources of health hazards include adhesives, paint coatings, solvents, vibrating machinery, carcinogenic wood dust, and excessive noise (Bello, 2012). When dealing with excessive noise, for instance, employees may experience gradual hearing loss. As such, it is necessary that they take long term preventive measures such as using ear muffs so that they stay safe in the present and in the future.
The safety and security of employees in a given workplace is taken seriously and employers have an important part to play. Under the OSHA guidelines, all employers are duly responsible for the safety and health of their employees and will be held responsible for any form of employee suffering (Mathis et al., 2016). Punitive measures have been outlined to ensure that workers are not oppressed by employers who are careless in following stipulated safety and health measures. Research shows that employers were liable to a fine of up to $12,934 for every OSHA violation and $129,336 for every willful violation (Jule, 2020). Therefore, a lack of prevention despite the knowledge of risks associated with a given workplace makes employers liable to criminal investigations and litigations.
The need to ensure employees are not oppressed in the workplace is not only enshrined in OSHA, but is also well documented in the Bible. According to Malachi 3:5 of the New King James Version, judgement awaits “against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans”. Evidently, biblical scripture warns against the exploitation of workers, and in the modern day work environment, such exploitation includes lack of safety prevention measures. While OSHA uses financial penalties to enforce the law, Biblical scriptures warns of impending judgment for employers who infringe upon the rights of those who work for them.
Workplace safety is not strictly the responsibility of employers as their employees also share a degree of responsibility. While it is the duty of an employer to design systems and procedures of a safe work environment, employees have a concomitant duty to behave in ways that safeguards their health and that of their co-workers. Employees need to be trained with their supervisors on how to maintain the safe and health standards in the workplace as they are at the forefront of potential risks and hazards. With such a model, the idea of a careless worker is discouraged and the concept of shared responsibility is encouraged (Jonathan and Mbogo, 2016). While employee responsibility might be overlooked, it is one of the key issues in the maintenance of a safe work environment.
Financial and reputational implications are the main implications that organizations and employers face when they do not adhere by established safety and security guidelines. In the modern day and age, employees are empowered enough to speak out against inhumane treatment in their workplaces. More often than not, such complaints are usually followed by swift punishment and court suits. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, New York sued Amazon for flagrantly breaking health and safety guidelines. Amazon was accused of failing to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols while simultaneously retaliating against employees who filed complaints (Associated Press, 2021). By compromising on the standards of safety and security in the workplace, Amazon neglected its duty to provide a safe work environment for its workers and opened itself up for high stake financial claims, court suits, and defamation.
In conclusion, workplace safety and security is a right entitled to all employees. Employers have a reusability to ensure that all their workers are safe and their work environment is humane. However, employees can only reap the benefits of safety mechanisms is they follow stipulated procedures. As a result, OSHA outlines that both employees and employers have a role to play for their mutual benefit. Similarly, biblical scripture discourages employers from oppressing their workers as they will eventually be held liable. While there are cost and logistical implications encountered in adopting safety and security measures as prescribed under OSHA, there are even worse consequences for neglecting them. Therefore, employees and employers accrue numerous benefits and avoid consequences if they choose to fully implement OSHA guidelines.
Associated Press. (2021). New York sues Amazon over claims it failed to protect workers from pandemic. The Guardian.
Bello, S. R. (2012). Workplace hazards risks and control. Createspace Independent Pub.
Fairfax, R. E. (2020). The occupational safety and health administration’s impact on employers: What worked and where to go from here. American Journal of Public Health, 110(5), 644-645.
Jonathan, G. K., & Mbogo, R. W. (2016). Maintaining health and safety at workplace: Employee and employer’s role in ensuring a safe working environment. Journal of Education and Practice, 7(29), 1-7.
Jule, J. G. (2020). Workplace safety: A strategy for enterprise risk management. Workplace Health & Safety, 68(8), 360-365. Web.
Mathis, R. L., Jackson, J. H., Valentine, S. R., & Meglich, P. (2016). Human resource management (15th ed.). Cengage Learning.
New King James Version. (1975). Bible Study Tools.