Safety-related lawsuits are some of the most common reasons for employee-initiated litigation. Since employers are legally mandated to provide a safe and healthy working environment for everyone, failing to do so can easily lead to a court case, especially if the lack of safety measures and features has resulted in bodily harm.
Needless to say, a lawsuit can have detrimental effects on your organization. For one, settling a lawsuit can take thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars, depending on the severity of the accident that it stems from. Furthermore, getting sued can negatively affect your reputation, perhaps even ruin it beyond repair if the case is publicized enough.
The best way to avoid safety-related lawsuits is to address the things that cause them in the first place. Here are the most important safety measures that every organization must apply to the workplace to keep workers safe, and thus prevent litigation.
1. Invest in proper safety gear
Proper work safety gear is the workers’ first line of defense against potential hazards in the workplace. Falling debris? A proper helmet can reduce the impact on the head. Flying sparks? A pair of safety goggles will keep workers’ eyes safe. Extremes of temperature? Well-insulated safety clothes help regulate workers’ body temperatures and prevent illness.
Almost every workplace needs some form of personal safety gear. Restaurant workers wear non-slip shoes to prevent slipping and falling. Construction workers wear helmets and steel-toed boots to protect their body parts from impact. Welders wear non-flammable fabrics to keep their clothes from catching fire from sparks. And so on. Investing in safety gear not only keeps your organization in compliance with regulatory laws but also significantly reduces the chances of work-related accidents and injuries.
2. Double down on training
Training is imperative in equipping workers with the knowledge they need to keep themselves–and others–safe. That said, doubling down on training is one of the best ways to avoid accidents in the workplace. Why? Because when workers know exactly what they’re doing and how to avoid safety risks, the chances of getting into or causing an accident are much, much lower.
Furthermore, your training program must include all of the safety procedures, policies, and standards that your organization upholds. It should also prepare workers on what to do in case of an accident or emergency so that in case an incident occurs, they are better able to minimize injury and prevent the situation from getting worse.
3. Choose the right contractors
When hiring contractors, it pays to be at least a little choosy. Perform due diligence before you select one for a certain job. Look into their safety history and training procedures, especially if their bid is suspiciously low. If they have been frequently cited by regulatory bodies, you are better off finding a better company that treats safety as a priority.
If you are hiring temporary workers from a temp company, it may also be necessary to provide them with job-specific safety training. Although their company may have trained them already, you can ensure they know how things go in your workplace to reduce the risk of accidents due to unfamiliarity.
4. Assign someone to maintain workplace safety
In industries such as construction, manufacturing, mining, and others that have inherently hazardous work environments, employers usually have safety officers who are responsible for inspecting workplaces for safety hazards, addressing these hazards, and ensuring the safety of the workplace day in and day out. This role may fall on managers or supervisors, but it can also be a standalone job position wherein an individual is dedicated solely to maintaining workplace safety.
For businesses like restaurants, retail stores, and supermarkets, it may not make sense to hire a safety officer. However, it is a good idea to assign this additional role to someone who is already familiar with workplace procedures, such as a manager or a supervisor. This way, you have someone who is always on the lookout for potential safety hazards, therefore alerting you of things you need to address before it’s too late.
5. Get business insurance and a lawyer
Despite these safety measures, an accident or injury may still occur within your premises. When that happens, it pays to be prepared with a business lawyer to help you keep the case out of court and liability insurance to help cover the damages. While these may seem like additional expenses that you may not even need, it’s better to shell out the money now than have to pay thousands in the future.
Preventing workplace accidents is a never-ending process. Nevertheless, it is necessary to avoid safety-related lawsuits which can be just as devastating as other types of lawsuits and, more importantly, keep your workers safe, healthy, and productive.