Office Safety Part 2: 15 More Tips for a Safer Office

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In our last post we listed 10 tips to keep your office environment safe for employees, and in this article we continue with 15 more tips and common work-safety issues that employers and safety officers need to keep in mind to maintain a safe workplace.

Vision problems

Although looking at a computer monitor cannot damage your eyes, spending a large portion of your workday at the computer can cause eyestrain, according to Chicago-based Prevent Blindness America. Eyes can become dry and irritated, and workers may begin having trouble focusing. A few work area adjustments can help alleviate some of these issues.

1- Dim the lights and use task lamps
Florescent lights in office buildings often are too bright for optimal vision. According to the American Optometric Association, light that is at about half-normal office levels is preferred. This can be achieved by removing some bulbs from overhead fixtures. If more light is needed for a particular task, the British Columbia Public Service Employee Relations Commission recommends providing individual task lamps rather than increasing overall lighting. The commission cautions that lightbulbs in task lamps should be fully recessed to avoid the creation of a bright spot in the worker’s line of vision.

2- Correctly position monitors
Prevent Blindness America recommends workers place their computer monitors slightly below eye level and 20-26 inches from their eyes. Screens that can tilt or swivel are especially beneficial. “Your eyes’ resting position is a few degrees below the horizon when you’re looking straight ahead,” Paquette said.

3- Minimize screen glare
The American Optometric Association points to screen glare as a major cause of eyestrain in the office. To minimize strain, avoid positioning monitors opposite open windows, or be sure to always close shades or blinds. A glare reduction filter also can be used.

4- Wear the right glasses
Workers should tell their eye doctor if they spend a large portion of the day working on the computer, the association recommends. The doctor can check the efficiency of vision at 20-30 inches – the typical distance a computer monitor should be placed. Glasses are available for computer use that allow the wearer to see the full monitor without having to excessively strain the neck.

5- Increase font size on computer
Small font sizes on the computer can strain both your vision and your neck, as workers tend to pull the head forward to view smaller print. A simple adjustment to the font size on the computer screen can eliminate the need for this. “In many software programs, you can use the CTRL-scroll up or down or CTRL+ or CTRL- to increase or reduce the size of the page you are looking at,” Paquette said.

6- Take a break
Giving your eyes a rest and allowing them to focus on things at varying distances can help reduce strain and fatigue. OSHA recommends workers take a 10-minute break for every hour spent on the computer. These breaks can include working on tasks that require your eyes to focus on objects at a further range.

Fire safety

Local fire departments responded to approximately 3,830 office fires each year between 2004 and 2008, according to the Quincy, MA-based National Fire Protection Association. On average, these fires caused four civilian deaths and 37 civilian injuries annually. Some routine inspections around the office can help reduce the likelihood of fire causing such devastation.

7- Maintain cords in good repair
According to the Office of Compliance, damaged and ungrounded power cords pose a serious fire hazard and violate safety codes. Cords should be inspected regularly for wear and taken out of service if they are frayed or have exposed wire. Further, cords should never be used if the third prong has been damaged or removed. Make sure cords are not overloading outlets. The most common causes of fires started by extension cords are improper use and overloading. Extension cords should be approved by a certifying laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories, and only used temporarily to connect one device at a time.

8- Inspect space heaters
If employees use space heaters, verify the devices are approved for commercial use and have a switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the heater is tipped over, the Office of Compliance suggests. Further, make sure space heaters are not powered through an extension cord or placed near combustible materials such as paper.

9- Never block fire sprinklers
Furniture and tall stacks of materials can block the range of fire sprinklers, reducing their effectiveness in the event of an emergency. Objects should never be placed higher than 18 inches below sprinkler heads to allow a full range of coverage, according to the Office of  Compliance.

10- Do not block escape routes or prop open fire doors  
Items never should be stored along an emergency exit route. These paths should remain free of clutter, according to OSHA. Fire doors should not be held open by unapproved means (such as with a garbage can or chair), as this creates a significant fire hazard.

Administrative controls

In addition to employee training and improved equipment, certain administrative controls can aid hazard recognition and the elimination of potentially dangerous situations.

11- Conduct walk-throughs
Periodically walking around the office can help with hazard recognition and maintenance of ergonomic task design. Turina recommended employers conduct an ergonomics screen of every workstation at least once a year. “Employee complaints are invaluable in the process, but yearly reassessments can help to ensure that a good fit is maintained between employee and workstation,” he said.

12- Monitor signs of musculoskeletal disorders
Recognizing the symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders can alert employees of the need to make an ergonomics alteration to their workstation. But workers need to know what those warning signs are. “Lots of musculoskeletal injuries developing from poor ergonomics start out asymptomatically and can become quite severe by the time an employee starts to experience symptoms,” Turina said. Pay attention to any pain, fatigue, numbness or weakness, as these may be signs of an ergonomics problem and the start of a more serious MSD.

13- Talk to employees about their concerns
Simply asking workers how they are feeling can go a long way toward recognizing hazards. “Employers need to take advantage of the cases where employees are experiencing symptoms like discomfort and fatigue early on, when quick, inexpensive interventions can usually solve the problem,” Turina said. “Ignoring these early warning signs can lead to employee suffering and astronomical cost in some cases.”

14- Establish employee reporting systems
Establishing an employee reporting system can be the best way for organizations to get a handle on potential hazards before they cause injury. Consider creating an anonymous reporting process that encourages workers to come forward with their concerns. “Research shows that early intervention yields the most cost-efficient results in all areas,” Paquette said.

 

15- Correct mouse placement
Paquette often sees workstations where the computer keyboard is on a tray, but the mouse remains on the desk. “That spells disaster for the neck and shoulder on the side of that mouse,” she said. She recommends that the mouse always be placed beside the keyboard.

Office Safety: 10 steps to a safer office

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A job where most of the work tasks are completed while sitting in a chair in a climate-controlled office building would seem less fraught with danger. However, a surprising number of hazards can be present in an office setting.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80,410 private-industry office and administrative workers suffered on-the-job injuries in 2008. Many of these injuries could have been prevented had workers or supervisors recognized the risks and implemented simple workplace modifications to help mitigate them.

Here are 25 steps you can take to reduce the risk of injury among your office staff.

Falls

Slips, trips and falls, the most common type of office injury, sidelined 25,790 workers in 2008, according to BLS. The National Safety Council says employees are 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling fall in an office setting than anywhere else. Several hazards contribute to these injuries, although most can be significantly reduced, often by raising awareness among employees.

1- Stay clutter-free
Boxes, files and various items piled in walkways can create a tripping hazard, according to OSHA. Be certain that all materials are safely stored in their proper location to prevent buildup of clutter in walkways. Further, in addition to posing an electrical hazard, stretching cords across walkways or under rugs creates a tripping hazard, so ensure all cords are properly secured and covered.

2- Step on up
Standing on chairs – particularly rolling office chairs – is a significant fall hazard. Workers who need to reach something at an elevated height should use a stepladder. The Chicago-based American Ladder Institute cautions that stepladders must be fully opened and placed on level, firm ground. Workers should never climb higher than the step indicated as the highest safe standing level.

3- Maintain a clear line of vision
Workers can collide when making turns in the hallways and around blind corners or cubicle walls. The National Safety Council suggests installing convex mirrors at intersections to help reduce collisions. If workers can see who is coming around the corner, collisions are less likely to occur.

4- Get a grip
Carpeting and other skid-resistant surfaces can serve to reduce falls. Marble or tile can become very slippery – particularly when wet, according to the National Safety Council. Placing carpets down can be especially helpful at entranceways, where workers are likely to be coming in with shoes wet from rain or snow.

Struck/caught by

Another major type of injury in the office setting comes from workers being struck by or caught by an object. Incidents of this nature accounted for 15,680 injuries in 2008, according to BLS.

5- Shut the drawer
File cabinets with too many fully extended drawers could tip over if they are not secured, the council warns. Additionally, open drawers on desks and file cabinets pose a tripping hazard, so be sure to always completely close drawers when not in use.

6- Safe stacking
According to the Office of Compliance, which oversees the safety of U.S. congressional workers, proper storage of heavy items can help reduce the number of office injuries. Large stacks of materials and heavy equipment can cause major injuries if they are knocked over. OOC recommends storing heavy objects close to the floor, and warns that the load capacity of shelves or storage units should never be exceeded.

 

Ergonomics injuries

Perhaps the most prevalent injuries in an office setting are related to ergonomics. Because office workers spend the bulk of their day seated at a desk and working on a computer, they are prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and repetitive movement. Ergonomics hazards can be difficult to detect. “Most office conditions that can be described as hazardous from an ergonomics perspective would appear quite innocuous to the everyday observer,” said Marc Turina, principal consultant for ErgoSmart Consultants in McKees Rocks, PA.

7- Provide adjustable equipment
One size does not fit all in an office workstation. “Adjustability is the key,” Turina said. “Chairs, work surfaces, monitor stands, etc., should all be adjustable in order to accommodate the widest range of employees.” He recommended presenting a variety of options to employees. Although employers may be reluctant to pay for expensive ergonomic equipment, experts insist the equipment is a wise investment. “A good keyboard tray may retail around $300; a good chair may retail around $500 to $700,” said Sonia Paquette, professional ergonomist and doctor of occupational therapy. She points out that the cost of the health claims that stem from not having these devices is much higher. “Some of these hard claims cost many tens of thousands of dollars just of medical treatment, let alone cost of replacement, absenteeism, loss of work production, etc.”

8- Train workers on how to use equipment
Providing adjustable furniture and equipment is only the first step in creating an ergonomically sound workstation. “A big issue that I have encountered a lot lately is employee inability to properly adjust their own office chairs,” Turina said. “Many times, employers can invest $500 in an excellent adjustable chair, but employees still experience a bad workstation fit.” The problem often is twofold: Workers do not know how to adjust their equipment, and they do not know the most ergonomically beneficial way to set up their workstation. Train workers on both the ideal setup and how to operate adjustable equipment accordingly.

9- Keep your feet on the floor
One of the first questions Paquette asks workers is whether their feet touch the floor when seated at their desk. “It sounds like an incredibly simple question,” she said, “but very often workers have their keyboard tray on the desktop, so in order to reach it, they need to jack up their chair so high that their feet can barely touch the floor.” She added that unless an employee’s feet are on the floor, a chair will not be able to reduce pain and discomfort. She recommended options such as adjustable keyboard trays or rolling tables adjusted to the proper height to eliminate this problem. Although footrests are a “second-best option,” their small surface may impede some of the worker’s movement.

10- Provide document holders
Frequently typing from hard copy can lead to neck strain if a worker is forced to repeatedly look down to the desk and back to the computer screen. Turina recommends providing document holders to reduce this strain. “These document holders are reasonably priced, and eliminate excessive cervical motion and help to prevent muscle imbalances,” he said. Document holders also are good for the eyes, according to the St. Louis-based American Optometric Association. Keeping reference materials close to the monitor reduces the need for your eyes to change focus as you look from the document to the monitor.

How training and orientation are crucial to keeping new workers safe

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Imagine you’re starting a new job.

You have to meet your co-workers, learn the ins and outs of the company, and begin performing your duties.

Meanwhile, you have to stay safe. This can be a challenge for new workers: Employees in their first month on the job have more than 3 times the risk for a lost-time injury than workers who have been at their job for more than a year, according to research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health.

Possible reasons for this? Peter Smith, IWH scientist, points out that new workers may be performing unfamiliar tasks – some of them hazardous. In addition, the workers may be unsure about their safety rights and responsibilities, and might feel uncomfortable speaking up about a hazard.

“We can only speculate on the ‘why,’” said Curtis Breslin, another IWH scientist who has collaborated with Smith on research about new worker safety. “One thing studies have shown is that there’s a lack of familiarity. That’s a common theme that could be contributing to new workers’ increased risk. The other possibility is that new workers might be encountering more hazards. Or their risk perception – they don’t have the knowledge and awareness, so they’re underestimating the risks. It could be issues with training, maybe they’re not being trained [or receiving] on-the-job, hard-knocks-type training that happens in the first or second month.”

IWH research has found that few new workers receive safety training – 1 out of 5 among a sample of Canadian workers, according to a 2007 study.

“The fact almost 80 percent of workers who were in their first year of employment could not remember receiving any workplace safety or orientation training is worrying for a few reasons,” Smith said. “This likely results in these workers being without important knowledge that could prevent them, or one of their co-workers, [from] getting injured.”

However, according to IWH, as novice workers gain job experience, their risk declines.

Looking at the numbers

In 2013, nearly one-third of the nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses that involved time away from work were suffered by workers with less than one year of service, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly one-quarter of these cases resulted in 31 or more days away from work, said Ken Kolosh, statistics manager at the National Safety Council.

Certain subgroups of new workers are at heightened injury risk. In the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, 45.4 percent of the injuries and illnesses in 2013 occurred among workers with less than one year of experience. In the construction and extraction industry, it was 34.9 percent.

“That makes sense because a lot of those industries are cyclical; they’re seasonally employed,” Kolosh said. “Almost by definition, many of those workers are always going to be new employees. The construction industry has a lot of seasonal employment. It has a lot of contractor-type workers, so a larger proportion of that population by definition is going to have less than three months of service.”

Construction workers frequently change jobsites as well, which can present problems.

“Every day, you have to be aware of what’s going on. You have to have good communication,” said Scott Schneider, director of occupational safety and health at the Washington-based Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. “It’s less an issue on unionized sites, where people have a substantial amount of safety training in apprenticeship programs. They also, as apprentices, get mentored along the way. It’s still an issue in the sense you’re going to a different jobsite, and you may not be familiar with that jobsite.”

IWH research published in 2012 concluded that risk was higher among new workers who were older, men and workers in the “goods sector,” including construction and manufacturing. This may be because these jobs have more physical demands, and older workers might be more physically susceptible to injury, Breslin said.

The Importance of Contractor Management Software

What is a Contractor Management Software?

Contractor management software is an important part to managing any company, business or organization’s interactions with the contractors who support its operations and facilities. It is an integral part in managing all contractor types from electricians to plumbers, HVAC to garbage removal, paving to painting.

A contractor management system/software consolidates all contractor information into one database. And can then automate any processes across national, regional and local contractors.

Contractor Management & Onboarding

The first step for of utilizing a contractor management software is the onboarding of your commercial contractors onto the management software platform. Once on the platform your contractors can communicate and transact electronically with your Facilities Management team, and your facilities management team can perform an array of automated activities including work verification, electronic payments, and analytics.

Assess both the technology and the level of support of a contractor management solution

Onboarding and training your external contractors on how to get started and use the system is crucial as it will ensure proper and consistent use. Effective onboarding also leads to maximizing value and minimizing errors and risk by automating contractor sourcing, work order management and invoice/payment processes.

To have a truly successful facilities management program, contractors must be fully engaged in the process. It’s why whenever you evaluate a contractor management solution you cannot look at just the technology. You need to focus on the resources that go into contractor training. What good is software if no one knows how to use it or doesn’t full understand the features?

A robust contractor management system will include training and onboarding contractors on all aspects of the software and program, including registering and uploading contractor company information (insurance, W9 information, etc.), checking in/out using our GPS check in/Out or IVR telephone system, submitting electronic proposals and invoices, and adhering to all of your organization’s specific procedures.

One of the most significant benefits of having all your contractors trained and on board with contractor management service automation is that it enables you to receive objective, quantifiable performance metrics. It minimizes room for error, ensures brand consistency across all locations and avoids costly mistakes. It also ensures compliance by validating that contractors have the necessary and up-to-date insurance and licenses.

Ongoing Training and Web-Based Instructions

Training needs to take place continuously as contractors hire new employees, as new features are added or modified in the contractor management software, and to also serve as a refresher for those already using the system. Training can take place in person, but most contractor management programs provide value and efficiency in web-based instruction (training webinars) for commercial contractors and facilities management teams. Effective training and onboarding can save time and manpower in getting your contractor son the contractor management system and up to speed.

The Advantages of Contractor Management Solutions

Contractor management solutions enable facilities managers to better organize and manage work orders, and monitor performance and productivity. As facilities management becomes more data-driven, it’s critical that contractor sourcing not rely solely on relationships and perceived trust, but also include objective, quantifiable performance metrics. As with every aspect of your operations, you want to make sure you have the best-performing contractors doing your work.

The Quest for Global Risk Agility

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Man-made risks, such as cyberrisk, physical security threats and climate change—are the driving forces in the global threat landscape. Unlike natural risk, which remains a central preoccupation, man-made risks have agency. Simply put, a tornado does not pre-plan where and who it will strike. A cyberattack, by contrast, is generally not a random event. While large organizations can often shield themselves from the financial consequences of many risks, the ensuing reputational harm can irrecoverably erode market share and stakeholder trust. Small- to mid-sized enterprises confront these challenges as an existential threat.

The quest for global risk agility is principally a management framework aimed at changing the way organizations and senior leaders think about risk. Rather than making risk an object of “passive control” and something to be feared, agile decision makers make risk an object to be understood—with a healthy dose of respect—and properly harnessed. There is a risk in doing nothing at all in these turbulent times. Organizations, large or small, can no longer afford to remain on the sidelines.

Organizations tend to be far too passive vis-à-vis their approach to risk management. Risk does not wait for a board to have a quorum among its members before it strikes. Risk also does not recognize the annual planning, strategy or budgetary cycles that are the drumbeat of large enterprises. Too few of these organizations—particularly publicly-listed firms—are marching to the drumbeat and, therefore the short-termism, of the stock market. In the era of man-made risks, decisions need to be framed around longevity and optimization, as opposed to short-term performance and maximization. It is only through this that organizational resilience and a spirit of collective survival will take hold.

The best place to start is to create greater awareness of man-made risk in the context of global risk analysis. Too often, boards and senior decision-makers do not know what questions they should ask of each other, or necessarily where to obtain the right answers. This reality is confounded by the individual silos or domains over which senior leaders reign, largely in indifference to and with independence from their colleagues in the C-suite. The first step is to acknowledge that they may not have all the answers, particularly within the context of long-range planning. It is every global firm’s duty and obligation to develop their own “foreign policy” with respect to operating in international markets. Of course, this also applies to operating domestically, where a rare breed of organization puts its value systems front and center in all decisions, large or small.

Businesses will never be outside the reach of controllable and uncontrollable risk—all they can do is attempt to manage them in a reasonable and effective fashion. In the era of man-made risk, which often clashes with natural risk, many firms need to greatly strengthen their organizational resilience and risk management procedures, or to consider getting into another line of business in another location. Some prime examples are those firms with high profiles and/or a lot of money (that may attract the attention of cybercriminals), those that operate in strategic sectors (that may attract the attention of nationalistic governments), and those located in flood-prone areas or that function in areas of the world particularly prone to terrorism. The intersection between man-made and natural risk will only grow with time, with increasingly profound potential implications.

If 2016 was the year of cyberrisk maturity in that there is not an organization in advanced markets that is not sensitized to their exposure, 2017 will be the year of decision opacity. In other words, decision-makers from large and small enterprises, and across sectors, will be confounded by a world that is increasingly difficult to read and, therefore, to make long-range plans for inventory, investments, hiring and market expansion. Risk can be measured, but uncertainty cannot: Uncertainty creates bank runs, erodes consumer and investor confidence and trust in counterparties and institutions. 2017 will mark a year of intense uncertainty. Those firms already seeking global risk agility—and actively devoting resources to and making decisions consistent with that objective—stand the best chance of actually achieving organizational resilience in the face of such uncertainty.

This post was originally published on the Risk Management Magazine

Applying risk management tools

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In the environmental, health and safety industry, emphasis is placed on reducing job-related incidents and increasing the level of workplace safety and compliance. Anything that jeopardizes those priorities needs to be contained and prevented from happening again. Risk management tools provide a systematic method for handling such events with consistency and objectivity.

Using a risk matrix – a tool that quantifies hazards based on severity and frequency – is the first step in that systematic process. A risk matrix defines numerical scales for the frequency and severity of possible incidents to determine how large of a risk that event is. For example, if something has high severity and high frequency, it is considered high risk. If something is low in both of those areas, it is considered low risk. This information helps EHS professionals make decisions across a number of areas.

Applying risk management to EHS organizations

Although the risks will be different for every organization, some applications of risk management are beneficial to all EHS organizations.

Incident management: EHS systems need to track any adverse incidents such as injuries, illnesses and chemical spills, among others. Documenting incidents and collecting data helps you contain the effects, get back into compliance and ensure the incidents do not happen again. Using a risk management tool such as a risk matrix helps prioritize these critical issues. It provides a systematic process to follow, which makes it easier to make decisions about handling the situation.

Job safety analysis: Risk management provides a benchmark for JSA, breaking down the individual pieces of a job description and analyzing them with the same methods as an adverse event. Once potential hazards are revealed, the organization can take steps to prevent or decrease the risk through protective equipment or safety regulations specific to the job. Knowing what incidents could possibly occur leads to prevention, which decreases the chance of the incident actually happening.

Corrective action: EHS systems can also apply risk to the corrective action process to determine if a corrective action was effective. The risk values of an incident after the corrective action measures the residual risk to see if the corrective action worked. This can be repeated as many times as necessary, until the risk has been reduced to an acceptable level.

Enterprise reporting: Having an automated EHS system that collects data is not enough. You need a tool that reports the data in a comprehensive manner, determining general trends and overall impacts. Risk management tools give executives fuel to make informed decisions and changes with support from data. They can connect the root causes of incidents that happen in different departments and look at the EHS enterprise as a whole.

There’s more

Risk management tools are invaluable for EHS professionals in other areas: emissions tracking, energy management, Safety Data Sheets, aspects, objectives and targets, and crisis management – just to name a few. Incorporating risk management tools to all of your EHS operations will help you make informed decisions and get on a path of constant improvement.

What is Risk Management? And Why Should you Care?

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Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization’s capital and earnings. These threats, or risks, could stem from a wide variety of sources, including financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management errors, accidents and natural disasters. IT security threats and data-related risks, and the risk management strategies to alleviate them, have become a top priority for digitized companies. As a result, a risk management plan increasingly includes companies’ processes for identifying and controlling threats to its digital assets, including proprietary corporate data, a customer’s personally identifiable information and intellectual property.

Risk management standards

Since the early 2000s, several industry and government bodies have expanded regulatory compliance rules that scrutinize companies’ risk management plans, policies and procedures. In an increasing number of industries, boards of directors are required to review and report on the adequacy of enterprise risk management processes. As a result, risk analysis, internal audits and other means of risk assessment have become major components of business strategy.

Risk management standards have been developed by several organizations, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the ISO. These standards are designed to help organizations identify specific threats, assess unique vulnerabilities to determine their risk, identify ways to reduce these risks and then implement risk reduction efforts according to organizational strategy.

The ISO 31000 principles, for example, provide frameworks for risk management process improvements that can be used by companies, regardless of the organization’s size or target sector. The ISO 31000 is designed to “increase the likelihood of achieving objectives, improve the identification of opportunities and threats, and effectively allocate and use resources for risk treatment,” according to the ISO website.  Although ISO 31000 cannot be used for certification purposes, it can help provide guidance for internal or external risk audit, and it allows organizations to compare their risk management practices with the internationally recognized benchmarks.

The ISO recommended the following target areas, or principles, should be part of the overall risk management process:

  • The process should create value for the organization.
  • It should be an integral part of the overall organizational process.
  • It should factor into the company’s overall decision-making process.
  • It must explicitly address any uncertainty.
  • It should be systematic and structured.
  • It should be based on the best available information.
  • It should be tailored to the project.
  • It must take into account human factors, including potential errors.
  • It should be transparent and all-inclusive.
  • It should be adaptable to change.
  • It should be continuously monitored and improved upon.

The ISO standards and others like it have been developed worldwide to help organizations systematically implement risk management best practices. The ultimate goal for these standards is to establish common frameworks and processes to effectively implement risk management strategies.

These standards are often recognized by international regulatory bodies, or by target industry groups. They are also regularly supplemented and updated to reflect rapidly changing sources of business risk. Although following these standards is usually voluntary, adherence may be required by industry regulators or through business contracts.

Risk management strategies and processes

All risk management plans follow the same steps that combine to make up the overall risk management process:

  • Risk identification. The company identifies and defines potential risks that may negatively influence a specific company process or project.
  • Risk analysis. Once specific types of risk are identified, the company then determines the odds of it occurring, as well as its consequences. The goal of the analysis is to further understand each specific instance of risk, and how it could influence the company’s projects and objectives.
  • Risk assessment and evaluation. The risk is then further evaluated after determining the risk’s overall likelihood of occurrence combined with its overall consequence. The company can then make decisions on whether the risk is acceptable and whether the company is willing to take it on based on its risk appetite.
  • Risk mitigation. During this step, companies assess their highest-ranked risks and develop a plan to alleviate them using specific risk controls. These plans include risk mitigation processes, risk prevention tactics and contingency plans in the event the risk comes to fruition.
  • Risk monitoring. Part of the mitigation plan includes following up on both the risks and the overall plan to continuously monitor and track new and existing risks. The overall risk management process should also be reviewed and updated accordingly.

Risk management approaches

After the company’s specific risks are identified and the risk management process has been implemented, there are several different strategies companies can take in regard to different types of risk:

  • Risk avoidance. While the complete elimination of all risk is rarely possible, a risk avoidance strategy is designed to deflect as many threats as possible in order to avoid the costly and disruptive consequences of a damaging event.
  • Risk reduction. Companies are sometimes able to reduce the amount of effect certain risks can have on company processes. This is achieved by adjusting certain aspects of an overall project plan or company process, or by reducing its scope.
  • Risk sharing. Sometimes, the consequences of a risk is shared, or distributed among several of the project’s participants or business departments. The risk could also be shared with a third party, such as a vendor or business partner.
  • Risk retaining. Sometimes, companies decide a risk is worth it from a business standpoint, and decide to retain the risk and deal with any potential fallout. Companies will often retain a certain level of risk a project’s anticipated profit is greater than the costs of its potential risk.

The Importance of Conducting Safety Audits

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Organizations conduct safety audits to comply with laws or regulations and to provide a safe workplace for everyone. A safety audit identifies different levels of risk in each work area of an organization. An audit’s findings can also include how an organization can remediate potential threats to employees and visitors. When an organization follows through on the findings of a safety audit, the workplace will be safer, and there will be a reduced likelihood of worker injury, illness, and death.

A systematic approach is a vital ingredient for a safety audit. Including the following components will make a safety audit more effective:

1. Research safety conditions that should exist in each work area. Look up appropriate laws and rules of practice

2. Create an audit checklist. Include minimum safety standards for each work area and possible safety issues. If an organization has a safety management system, it may be possible to print a safety audit form for each program area. Extensive research helps an auditor to refine his audit checklist.

3. Conduct a preliminary inspection of all work areas. Use additional paper, if needed, to note unsafe conditions, including surfaces and equipment that need maintenance, repair, or replacement and areas where employees need better personal protective equipment. An organization can consult with experts to address safety issues that are outside the range of experience of the management team.

4. Inspect safety records of each program area. Read all safety policies and procedures, safety meeting agendas, Material Safety Data Sheets, previous inspection reports, and reports of accidents and injuries. A well-designed audit demonstrates how an organization has performed since the most recent inspection.

5. Conduct a formal inspection by visiting all work areas again. If a work area is not compliant with an item on the checklist, it’s important to record that finding. An auditor must also ask questions of on-duty managers and workers to ensure that enough information is collected to prepare a complete report.

6. Prepare an official version of the formal inspection that summarizes the audit’s findings. A summary includes comments addressing the changes that management has taken to increase safety since the most recent audit.

7. Provide a copy of the audit to management. Program managers need the auditor’s contact information if they have questions about how to correct problems summarized in your report.

What is Contractor Management?

Definition of Contractor Management

Contractor management refers to the managing of outsourced work performed for an individual company. It is increasingly common for industries to rely upon independent contractors for specialized skills and knowledge. By utilizing outside contractors, companies can achieve three main goals: accessing specialized expertise that is not continuously or routinely required, supplementing limited company resources during periods of unusual demand, and providing staffing increases without the overhead cost of direct-hire employees.

Challenges Associated with Contractor Management

Because independent contractors are not a regular component of the company for whom they work, there are some unique challenges that must be addressed by companies conducting contractor management. Increasingly, companies rely on outsourced contractors for field service work. This poses challenges in maintaining consistency in service delivery and customer experience, as well as in maintaining visibility and sufficient control over scheduling and other facets of service.

Some of the most common day-to-day challenges associated with contractor management include:

  • Senior leadership commitment
  • Project managers’ understanding of their roles
  • Team members’ understanding of expectations
  • Scheduling and task management
  • Control over labor costs

Companies also must determine how to access the independent contractor population and minimize costly penalties that often result from improper classification of workers and independent contractors. Moreover, companies need to consider how to evaluate independent contractors. On-boarding and administration programs must be in place for successful contractor management.

Other aspects of contractor management that must be considered are risk assessment and identification, issuing 1099s on behalf of the client, and document completion, collection, and maintenance. Many challenges associated with contractor management can be overcome by employing best practices for contractor management.

Best Practices for Contractor Management

Freelancing and independent contracting especially are popular among small businesses. Independent contractors are able to fulfill needs that the small business workforce otherwise could not. Contractor management is necessary because of the nature of the independent contractors’ work; independent contractors, particularly field service contractors, often work away from the office and are not under direct supervision. Under these circumstances, even experienced CEOs may find it difficult to manage independent contractors. There are some best practices that help companies and executives handle their contractor management:

  • Clearly define the services that you need to have provided
  • Draft a job description to serve as a reference point when drawing up a contract
  • Determine payment schedules and compensation rates ahead of time
  • Set up a straightforward and clear written agreement at the contract’s start
  • Ensure that you are firmly within legal grounds and document a work arrangement meticulously so that you are correctly classifying your independent contractor
    • Keep in mind that experts recommend that you determine the what and the contractor determines the how – you outline specific goals, but the contractor must provide his own tools, equipment, and facilities to complete the work
  • Guide productivity and ensure that the contractor will produce high quality work while meeting key deadlines by specifying the deliverables in the agreement, making yourself available to answer follow-up questions, and scheduling regular meetings for progress updates

Communication is Key to Contractor Management

Independent contractors, program managers, and company executives not only have a professional duty to communicate effectively, but they must communicate in a way that ensures the contracted work is completed well and in a timely manner. Effective communication is a key component of contractor management throughout the business relationship, from defining services and writing the agreement, to meeting with the contractor throughout the project’s completion. There are several solutions for contractor management available, including mobile management software and solutions, to connect everyone and ensure successful contractor management.

With comprehensive contractor management practices offering visibility and control over the complete service chain, enterprises managing field service contractors and other independent contractors are able to reduce labor costs, obtain proof-of-service, gain real-time visibility into the status of jobs and tasks, and ultimately, provide a more consistent experience that increases end customer satisfaction.

How Financial Goals Could be Directly Impacting Employee Safety

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According to new research in the Journal of Accounting and Economics, financial goals may be more important than employee safety.

UCLA Anderson of Management Associate Professor of Accounting Judson Caskey and UT Jindal School of Management Assistant Professor of Accounting N. Bugra Ozel collaborated on a study that examined 14 years of data on workplace safety from the OSHA, documenting any data that might show correlation between analysts’ forecasts and injury/illness rates.

Caskey and Ozel found that any changes in operations or production that are meant to increase earnings impacted the number of injuries in the company. Specifically, an increase in employee workloads and in abnormal reductions of discretionary expenses caused a rise in injury/illness rates when analyst forecasts were met or exceeded.

“Managers can indirectly, and perhaps inadvertently, detract from safety by increasing workloads, hours, or the desired speed of work flow,” the authors said. “For example, rushed employees may have more accidents, and increased workload and hours without additional rest and recovery time can increase stress-related injuries. Managers can also directly impact safety by cutting safety-related expenditures.”

Researchers also noted that the relation between benchmark beating and workplace safety is stronger when there is less union presence, when workers’ compensation premiums are less sensitive to injury claims and among firms with less government business.