Fact Sheet

Other Factors That Contribute to Unsafe Conditions

It is one thing to expect that employees and volunteers will contribute to the safety in the workplace. It is another thing to provide direction, guidance and consequences that spell out exactly what is expected, how the organization expects staff members to achieve this safe environment and what will happen if individuals do not do what is expected.

Human Resource Policies and Practices

Workplace safety begins with the nonprofit's human resource policies and practices. These policies and practices need to apply to both paid and volunteer staff. There is often a reluctance to hold volunteers accountable for behavior for fear of being perceived as not volunteer friendly. This hesitation to require volunteers to adhere to the same safety practices as their paid co-workers does a disservice to the organization, to the clients and public, and to the employees and volunteers. The rule should be that anyone in the organization is required to behave in a manner that promotes safety and follows the rules to ensure a safe environment.

For example, if the organization has a transportation program, or requires employees and/or volunteers to drive on behalf of the nonprofit, it is reasonable to require acceptable department of motor vehicles records for all drivers in addition to a valid driver's license. This is an appropriate requirement and the cost of obtaining the DMV record could be borne by the applicant?employee or volunteer. If the person wishes involvement with the organization, he or she must provide documentation that proves fitness for the position.

Similarly, the organization must take proactive steps to investigate the cause of an accident, including considering substance abuse tests. As part of an accident investigation, these tests are not necessarily an invasion of privacy. Drug testing is subject to numerous federal, state and local laws; investigate thoroughly before you implement a drug-testing program. Cooperation with all law enforcement is essential. As part of any employee or volunteer handbook and new employee or volunteer orientation, there should be a clear description of the process that will take place in the investigation of any accident whether on-site, or driving a vehicle on behalf of the organization. Establishing and enforcing policies is an important step in developing a safety-conscious workplace.

Listen for clues of potential trouble, such as adverse comments from a reference, when evaluating employee or volunteer applicants. Be similarly concerned about a volunteer's reluctance to provide references from sources other than family. Once on board, employees and volunteers need to be supervised to ensure that they understand responsibilities and performance expectations. If employees or volunteers are demonstrating a history of mishaps on the job, then steps need to be taken immediately to identify the source of the problems.

Operational Procedures — The Nature of the Workplace Activities

Regardless of the nature of the organization's work, safety needs to be built into all activities and functions: office space, work areas, buildings and equipment among others.

Others safety issues pertain specifically to the demographics of each organization's staff. For instance, nonprofits whose employees or volunteers include more seniors, youth or physically or mentally challenged would have heightened safety concerns.

Storage of Supplies and Merchandise

A belief that Newton's Law of Gravity does not apply to the organization's storage arrangement is a precursor to injuries that can be very serious. Are storage cabinets in your office packed with supplies? What happens when the cabinet door is opened? Halls, space in front of seldom-used emergency exit doors, and stairwells used as auxiliary storage areas are harbingers of injury, accident and even death, in case of emergencies.

Cleaning materials, toner or other toxic chemicals should not be stored with such supplies as paper and pens.

Cluttered work areas are safety hazards. Sharp instruments such as letter openers, scissors and box cutters could be layered among the papers and documents on a cluttered work surface.

Additionally, haphazard trash removal can create unsafe conditions. Rubbish that includes days' old food is unsanitary and can cause health problems. And spilled liquids, which can cause slips and falls, need to be wiped up promptly; as standing liquid — even water — can become a source of mold.

Lack of maintenance for tools, vehicles and motorized equipment, such as lawnmowers, golf carts and forklifts, can result in accidents and injuries.