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Unlike our predecessors in the mines and mills and factories - and even offices - we today expect our workplaces to be safe. We consider this a birthright - that our employers should design and monitor the workplace in such a way that we are allowed to do our job without any undue risk for ourselves. And yet, of course, this is not a birthright but rather a legal protection that was fought for by workers and workers advocates (including unions) in previous generations. There seems to be little if any natural inclination of even good employers to ensure the safety of their workers, and it is for this reason that government regulations exist to protect workers. This research project examines one very specific example within the contemporary workforce of the ways in which government regulation is sometimes a necessary supplement - or bulwark - to the good intentions of employers to keep their workers safe.
But of course workplace safety is not only the responsibility of the government and the employer. Workers must (and are usually eager to) take an active role in keeping themselves safe. Indeed, occupational safety and health training of each worker in a way appropriate to their job is a key aspect of reducing and even preventing altogether workplace injuries and illnesses. To be able to train workers to protect themselves properly requires those workers, in concert with their employers as well as government regulators, to be able to identify the specific job hazards that they may face because such a specificity of recognition allows everyone to work to maintain a safe work environment. Not only is this a humane thing to do, but it also makes sense from a purely economic point-of-view: A workplace in which people are injured or are fearful of being injured is not one in which people can accomplish their best work.
For workers in the state of California, the most important government agency involved in keeping workers safe if the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly called Cal-OSHA. This agency's mission is both straightforward and daunting: Straightforward because its aim is to improve the safety conditions of every working Californian, daunting because of the array of dangers to which Californians may be subjected on their jobs.
The agency has, for the past 19 years been working with employers to ensure that they use the most current methods to protect the life, safety and health of their employees.
You have a right to a safe and healthful workplace. The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 was enacted by the California Legislature to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all California working men and women.
Cal/OSHA wants every worker to go home from work each day safe and healthy.
Cal/OSHA was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 to enforce effective standards, assist and encourage employers to maintain safe and healthful working conditions, and to provide for enforcement, research, information, education and training in the field of occupational safety and health.
While (one would hope!) most people should agree with the statement that workers deserve a safe place to work and that employers must take all reasonable steps to comply with OSHA regulations (and common sense) to ensure this safety, there is often a great deal of disagreement in the case of any specific workplace exactly what such "reasonable" steps might be. Sometimes employers do not want to spend money on precautions that they deem to be excessive. Sometimes employees do not want to be hindered from doing their jobs by regulations that they deem to be excessive. A safe workplace depends on both employers and employees agreeing to what is safe and necessary, and each side taking the steps necessary to be in compliance to a safe and productive workplace.
Cal-OSHA outlines the importance of responsible behavior by both employers and employees. For example, some of the requirements made of employers are:
That they establish, implement and maintain an Injury and Illness prevention program and keep this program current.
That they inspect their workplace to identify and correct unsafe and hazardous conditions.
That they supply their employees with safe tools, that these tools are maintained and that workers actually use them That they clearly post warnings to all employees about potential hazards in the workplace
That they keep operating manuals current employees can always educate themselves about workplace safety procedures.
That they provide medical examinations and training when required by Cal/OSHA standards.
However, workplace safety is not considered to be a one-way street: Workers too have a number of obligations under California state law. Among these are the following:
Employees must follow all lawful employer safety and health rules and regulations, including using all prescribed protective equipment.
Employees must promptly report any hazardous conditions that they discover to their employer.
Employees must report any job-related injury or illness to your employer, and after they report it seek prompt treatment.
Employees must cooperate fully with the Cal/OSHA enforcement personnel when they are conducting an inspection.
A if they inquire about safety and health conditions in your workplace.
Ideally, it should be clear from the description above, that in a well-run workplace, everyone works together to make sure that the law is uphold and that everyone is given a safe enough workplace that they can in turn provide their employee with their best work. Because working conditions in any workplace are constantly changing, often the ways in which workers are kept safe must be adjusted as well, and ideally (again) this should be a process in which everyone concerned is included in the process.
The City of Long Beach's Departmant of Health and Human Services is currently in a position that it is reconsidering whether the current protections in place in this department are sufficient to protect its workers. Current debate was prompted at least to some extend by changes in the state labor code (which went into effect Jan. 1, 2000) that now explicitly require managers to be responsible for ensuring that all of their employees are effectively trained in work-related hazards so as to reduce or prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
If employees do not abide by the Injury and Illness Workplace Policy within any organization, individual supervisors as well as the company (or government department) as a whole can now be held legally liable for the workplace-caused injuries and illnesses of workers in their care.
In response to the increased numbers of safety incidents as well as to the need to ensure implementation of the new OSHA standards, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services wishes to determine if there is a need for additional safety training sessions or safety offices to improve organizational safety.
The health department is a large department with that supplies a diverse range of services to the people of the city of Long Beach, including:
Early Child Care and Education
Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The overall mission of the department is to:
improve the quality of life of the citizens of Long Beach by addressing the public health and human service needs ensuring that the conditions affecting the public's health afford a healthy environment in which to live, work and play.
This study examines the current state of the safety training operations in the city and makes an initial determination about the feasibility of creating a safety officer position specifically and solely assigned to the Department of Health and Human Services as a cost-effective method of ensuring that workers are kept safe and that managers and the department itself are protected from legal actions against them - so that workers and managers together can dedicate themselves to protecting the health of the citizens of Long Beach.
The model for this addition of a safety worker is easily found close at hand. The Department of Parks and Recreation has just added a department-specific safety officer because of the (previously) high level of injuries to workers in this department.
Statement of the Problem
The City of Long Beach has four primary safety officers. One each is assigned to the Department of Water, the Department of Energy and the Parks and Recreation Department. The remaining city safety officer is responsible for the remaining 18 city departments' overall safety training.
Under the direction of the risk manager for the city, this fourth city safety officer is assigned to develop and maintain loss prevention and control programs for the remaining 18 departments. This city safety officer develops, implements and administers citywide program policies and procedures in the areas of occupational safety, industrial hygiene, fleet safety, emergency preparedness and city property loss prevention.
In addition to these duties, this city officer is assigned with the task of maintaining open and effective communication with all levels of city personnel to foster a proactive, citywide culture of concern for workplace safety.
Because of these diverse and numerous responsibilities, the person…[continue]
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