People can have different effects, including positive effects, and negative effects, on themselves or their co-workers when under stress. Stress can lead to increased workplace injuries, due to increased risk-taking and increased risk perception. Stress-related decision-making may lead to a lack of worker compliance with safety rules, resulting in potentially unsafe conditions. Moreover, increased stress leads to poor decision-making and risky behaviors at work.
There are a lot of workplace stressors, including job ambiguity, work overload, a lack of resources, and a lack of control. These are just a few of the contributors that lead to more work and more stress. Unfortunately, the consequences can be dire. Stress is one of the biggest reasons that unsafe behaviors occur, and stress can lead to unsafe behaviors that may be costly to both the employer and the worker. The stress-to-safety link also shows up in incidents of violence. Stress has been known to trigger aggressive behavior in the workplace, including physical violence. This is why it’s critical for employers to identify stressors early, and take steps to reduce stress and manage the issues that cause stress. Stress can be managed, but it’s much easier to mitigate before it reaches a level of being a problem. If you don’t do it now, you may have to do it later.
Companies should not be able to avoid responsibility for the safety of their employees by claiming that they did not know or anticipate the extent of the dangers that workers face in their workplaces. To ensure that employers have the information they need to put in place a safe workplace, we are proposing a mandatory Occupational Safety and Health Information Act to require employers to regularly communicate safety and health information to their employees.
Workplace safety was improved when employees felt their supervisors or other managers were safe themselves, when supervisors talked to them about hazards or tried to reduce their risks, and when there were good working relations between workers and their bosses.
So, you may have to start by talking to your employees. But the results are likely to be more than worth the effort. In fact, there are a number of things an employer can do to help build an effective safe workplace:
- Encourage workers to speak up if they think they’re being exposed to a safety hazard
- Talk with your employees and ask about the types of risks they face in the workplace
- Be explicit about when and how employees can bring up issues
- Don’t assume employees know they can report a safety issue
- Listen to the issues employees raise and address them when appropriate
- Take steps to minimize the number and severity of workplace accidents
- Encourage feedback from your employees
- When there are accidents, conduct an investigation to determine what happened and correct the problems
- Have a written safety plan with goals and objectives, so there is an organized system to help address hazards
- Provide employees with training in hazardous materials or other safety-related topics
- Set up an effective grievance or appeals process if employees aren’t satisfied with the results of a safety investigation or if they have complaints about a safety violation
- Make safety posters and other material available for employees to share with coworkers
- Be sure to post policies and procedures at the workplace so your employees know where to go to report safety concerns
- In addition to providing a safe workplace, encourage your employees to report safety-related concerns. You’ll be able to pinpoint hazards more quickly and may be able to prevent injuries and avoid expensive, time-consuming repairs. And, if an incident does occur, you’ll have a better chance of understanding what caused it.