Question:

I am the new Human Resources Manager at an industrial company in the Valley. I am concerned about workplace safety, and am wondering how to implement some safety policies. Can you give me some guidance?

Answer:

Labor Code Section 6400 requires every employer to furnish employment, and a place of employment, that is safe and healthful for employees. All employees have some basic rights to safety in the workplace. Those rights include:

  • to request that an employer correct hazards or safety violations,
  • to receive training regarding safe work practices and hazards unique to the job,
  • to be informed if an employee is exposed to harmful substances in amounts higher than the exposure limits set by the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (CAL/OSHA), and of any corrective action taken by the employer,
  • to request an inspection by filing a confidential complaint to CAL/OSHA about unsafe or unhealthy working conditions,
  • to know about CAL/OSHA citations against the employer, and
  • to file a complaint of discrimination or retaliation for reporting CAL/OSHA violations.

In addition, employers have basic responsibilities imposed under state and federal law to insure a safe and healthful work environment. Those responsibilities include:

  • keeping work areas, storerooms, hallways and premises clean and orderly,
  • maintaining the work environment in a way that does not expose employees to hazards,
  • cleaning and sweeping after hours or in another manner to avoid air contamination and harmful exposure,
  • keeping floors and work areas free from nails, loose boards, splinters, and unnecessary openings and holes.
  • storing garbage in a container that will not leak, and that can be conveniently and thoroughly cleaned, and
  • controlling insects and rodents in the workplace.

California also has regulations concerning mold in the workplace. When exterior water intrusion, leakage or accumulation of water occurs, the condition must be corrected because of the potential for these conditions to cause the growth of mold. Employers must therefore treat the presence of mold as an unsanitary condition and take corrective action to prevent or minimize the occurrence of the impact from the mold.

To comply with state health and safety regulations, every California employer must establish an Illness and Injury Prevention Program (IIPP). The record keeping requirements for the IIPP vary based on the size and industry of the employer. Your policies and IIPP should be tailored to your work environment and industry. Employers should provide safety training and implement policies, either in an employee handbook or IIPP, including:

  • Requiring employees to immediately report any unsafe or unhealthy working conditions.
  • Implement an emergency action and fire prevention plan.
  • Maintain provisions for medical services and first aid.
  • Adopt a policy prohibiting horseplay, pushing, scuffling or other acts that could affect safety.
  • Implement and train employees on the use of proper lifting techniques.
  • Properly store goods, files and equipment.
  • Properly label any hazard, including chemicals.
  • Properly store toxic and hazardous substances.
  • Solicit suggestions from employees to improve safety in the workplace.

For more information about California Health and Safety Regulations, visit the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) website
www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh1.html .
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