Top Workplace Safety + Security Considerations
February 20, 2021
The workplace is changing. New occupational health and safety requirements following the pandemic, landmark security cases in review, rising costs of facilities management and the constant challenge of talent acquisition and retention – all of these areas impact workplace safety and security.
In a time where technology is constantly changing and public health in addition to extreme violence events are in the news at an alarming rate, how can you instill a culture of safety and security at your workplace?
We asked Workplace Safety + Security Leader, Herb Brychta, this and other important questions. Following completion of workplace safety evaluations across the eastern United States for a national organization and speaking with leading experts on everything from construction trends, legionella to employee labor laws on AE Works’ Security Break series, Herb shared his key take-aways.
How can you instill a culture of safety and security at your workplace? What is most important?
Regular communications and visible actions are most important. People do what gets checked. If leadership is looking at security and safety and making a point to say something about it, people will pay attention to it. Workplace safety culture comes from the top.
Beyond communication and leadership, what are the foundations of workplace safety?
The legislative foundation is the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970. Very specific parts of that act are called out as public law. This act includes the general duty clause, which requires an employer to provide to its employees: "employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards.” The general duty clause covers anything that is not specifically called out in other OSHA standards and law. This includes the pandemic or workplace violence for which there aren’t current standards, but are regarded as “recognized hazards.” The lack of a specific standard does remove responsibility from providing a workplace free of hazards. OSHA is enforceable and monetary fines can range from $13,000-$134,000.
“Workplace safety culture comes from the top.”
OSHA outlines critical workplace requirements, but what do you consider a comprehensive Workplace Safety program?
OSHA specifies the minimum required. A comprehensive workplace safety program spans security, emergency management, and occupational health and safety. When you build a comprehensive program, you take into account considerations beyond that person’s direct job, but the entire workflow. Some examples that would be in a comprehensive workplace safety program include training for injury prevention and safety protocols for site visits.
You spoke with many industry leaders recently regarding safety considerations for returning to the office. What are some key takeaways from those conversations?
Because many buildings have been unoccupied, it is important to test for legionella. It’s a water test that a specialist can do easily. Other considerations include more frequent cleaning protocols, space layout and circulation adjustments, and building systems investments.
Additionally, with increased virtual work, there is a lot more data that is outside the direct control of employers, increasing the risk to hacking, loss and other threats. Workplace safety + security going forward should consider additional processes and layers of security to protect data.
What workplace safety + security policies or changes to existing policies are new?
The issue of employers being able to mandate vaccinations will be a hot topic in the news this year.
One often overlooked policy is a work from home agreement. This written document underscores the employee’s understanding and commitment to maintain a safe workspace while working virtual. This tool can aid in putting in place procedures for data protection.
About Herb Brychta, PSP, CISSP, CPP:
Herb Brychta is a strong leader with extensive and progressively responsible experience spanning Security, Anti-Terrorism, Emergency Management, and Workplace Safety. Having experience in the military, healthcare sector, and private industry, in capacities ranging from company command to small group leadership, he brings years of experience of preparation for evolving emergency situations and deploying measures to mitigate impact. Experience includes assessment of over 10 million SF of facilities for security and continuity of operations in addition to completing workplace safety evaluations which have saved employers $2 billion in costs.