One of the most common questions from many with safety and human resource responsibility over the last few months has been related to the updated rules OSHA released on 12/1/16 prohibiting employers from doing several things that could be seen as deterrents to employees reporting work related injuries or illnesses. In many cases, employers that continue doing what has been very common for years could face penalties for retaliating against an employee for reporting the injury or illness.
This has generated a significant number of case-specific questions, more than a few concerns, and a good bit of change in how many of us have administered policies. Having responsibility for both human resources and safety, and having been in the field for quite a few years now, I’m going to address this issue from the perspective of consistency. We have an awesome attorney on our board, Travis Vance, that has done, and will continue to do, a far better job of addressing the specific legal details… (You can click here to read one of the recent articles Travis wrote on this rule: https://www.fisherphillips.com/Workplace-Safety-and-Health-Law-Blog/osha-drugs-and-rock-n-roll)
So what do I mean by consistency? One of the things I’ve had concerns about for years has been the often immediate reaction of placing blame on an injured employee. With a tremendous amount of experience in Behavior Based Safety, and recently becoming a Certified Human Behavior Consultant, I’ll be the first to admit that behaviors are almost always contributing factors to workplace injuries. That said, I’m certainly not advocating automatic discipline. Quite honestly, my biggest concern has been about how, or IF, we address behaviors that violate policy but DO NOT result in injury. This is where consistency comes into play. As I have studied the new rule, I understand this to be one of the most relevant parts of any employer’s process. If I can show that I have a history of addressing similar situations with similar disciplinary steps, regardless of whether or not the employee was injured, I should be able to make a solid case against any potential claim of retaliation. At the end of the day, I’m much more interested in maintaining a just and consistent culture than I ever would be in issuing disciplinary action…
Drug testing is somewhat similar, but I’ll leave that for another time. Until then, I highly recommend you take advantage of the COMPLIMENTARY webinar Travis Vance is doing in late March.
Hope this helps,
Wes Dove, SHRM-CP/CHBC
Safety & Human Resource Manager, Blauch Brothers, Inc.