Fact Sheet

What Is Workplace Safety

Workplace safety is about preventing injury and illness to employees and volunteers in the workplace. Therefore, it's about protecting the nonprofit's most valuable asset: its workers. By protecting the employees' and volunteers' well-being, the nonprofit reduces the amount of money paid out in health insurance benefits, workers' compensation benefits and the cost of wages for temporary help. Also factor in saving the cost of lost-work hours (days away from work or restricted hours or job transfer), time spent in orienting temporary help, and the programs and services that may suffer due to fewer service providers, stress on those providers who are picking up the absent workers' share or, worse case, having to suspend or shut down a program due to lack or providers.

Addressing Safety and Health Hazards in the Workplace

To make the workplace safer, the organization has to acknowledge which potential health and safety hazards are present. Or determine where and what and how a worker is likely to become injured or ill. It starts with analyzing individual workstations and program areas for hazards — the potential for harm — be it a frayed electrical cord, repetitive motion, toxic chemicals, mold, lead paint or lifting heavy objects.

Job hazard analysis

OSHA describes a job hazard analysis as a technique that focuses on job tasks to identify hazards before they occur. The Nonprofit Risk Management Center thinks of it as looking at the parts to strengthen the whole. From either view, the analysis examines the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools and the work environment.

Depending on the nature of the nonprofit's mission and programs, senior management may have to help workers manage specific hazards associated with their tasks:

Workplace safety program

Any policy, procedure or training used by the organization to further the safety of paid and volunteer staff while working for the nonprofit is considered part of a workplace safety program. Workplace safety programs to reduce work-related injury and illness are concerned with:

Workplace injury and illness prevention

According to OSHA, work-related injury and illness prevention falls into three categories in order of priority: engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment controls. We have adapted this list to make it more applicable to most nonprofit organizations:

Workplace safety initiatives can be as simple as closing and locking the front door; replacing burned out lights inside and out; closing drawers before walking away from the desk or file cabinet; knowing and using proper lifting techniques; providing adjustable workstations to accommodate differences in people's stature and weight to eliminate repetitive motion, back, neck and shoulder injury; and using the proper tool for the job in an appropriate fashion. These and other basics should be universally adopted safety procedures in any workplace.

Size does not matter

Workplace safety programs are important to all nonprofit organizations. Remember: employees and volunteers are a nonprofit's most important asset. One might argue that a nonprofit run by one employee or one volunteer is at greater risk than a nonprofit with thousands of staff members. The argument would be: If that one person is out of commission, the nonprofit's mission is nonfunctioning. For all intents and purposes that nonprofit is defunct. That is not to say the nonprofit with thousands of paid and volunteer employees is at less risk, just that there's more of a chance that someone can step into the void and perform the tasks of the injured or ill person.

Create ownership of the program

Paid and volunteer staff members' health and safety are affected not only by their own actions but by those of their co-workers. Senior management must help staff members manage hazards associated with their work (tasks or responsibilities). They also need to make certain employees and volunteers are fit for work. Fitness for work involves drug and alcohol issues, physical and emotional well-being, and fatigue and stress.

People need to be engaged with the creation and implementation of the safety program for it to succeed. For example, the nonprofit is responsible for supplying employees and volunteers with appropriate safety equipment, but staff are responsible for wearing it at the right times and places. The nonprofit should provide paid and volunteer staff with training to help them carry out their assignments, but these staff members are responsible for attending this training, asking questions and telling supervisors if they do not understand what is being explained. This may require staff members to act assertively — to speak up for themselves: 'I do not understand how to use these, could you please show me.'

Measure performance

In safety and health, continuous improvement involves seeking better ways to work, measuring performance and reporting against set targets. It is also about systematically evaluating compliance with procedures, standards and regulations; understanding the causes of incidents and injuries; and openly acknowledging and promptly correcting any deficiencies.

Performance measurement can be:

Resources

National Safety Council

OSHA Job Hazard Analysis, OSHA 3071, 2002

WMC Limited Safety and Health Report 2000

Workplace Safety Definitions

Safety and Health Program Checkup

Workplace Safety Job Descriptions

Workplace Safety Policy Statement