On September 5, 2012, AGC hosted a webinar on the Essential Safety Matters for HR: Working Together to Keep Employees Safe and the Company Litigation-Free. An on-demand version of the webinar is available for purchase from the AGC Bookstore.
Both HR and safety managers have a responsibility to work together to keep employees safe. There is also a responsibility to do so while complying with various, often conflicting legal and regulatory requirements such as those governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and workers’ compensation requirements. Similarly, failure to understand OSHA’s emphasis on whistleblower and retaliation claims, as it applies to safety-related discipline and incentive plans, can create an expensive trap for the unwary. Each time an employee is evaluated for fitness-for-duty, sustains an on-the-job injury, or requests injury-related leave or modified duty, HR and safety managers must carefully coordinate their actions. When collaboration doesn’t exist, regulatory actions and litigation can result, costing the company time, money and harm to its reputation.
During the webinar, attorney Howard Mavity of Fisher & Phillips, LLP, drew from his experiences as a labor and employment attorney handling more than 400 workplace fatality cases to explain the importance of collaboration between the HR and safety departments. Specifically for HR professionals, Mr. Mavity described several factors, and even provided sample interviewing questions, that HR professionals must consider for a prospective safety manager during the hiring process. Mr. Mavity also explained the importance of defining expectations and communicating regularly with the safety manager, who is often the front-line representative of the company for employees, vendors, subcontractors, and regulatory officials.
The webinar addressed key points for HR managers to consider, such as how to:
- Recognize HR’s role in critical safety management areas, including responding to employee complaints, safety-related discharges, fitness-for-duty and injury-related scenarios;
- Audit basic HR policies for retaliation, ADA, and OSHA exposure;
- Respond to state and federal OSHA safety and whistleblower investigations;
- Develop an integrated safety and HR process in order to minimize physical and legal risks;
- Train project supervisors to more effectively counsel, evaluate, and discipline poor performers; and
- Handle fitness-for-duty and recordkeeping procedures with ease.
The webinar concluded with several tips for developing an integrated safety and HR process, training project supervisors to effectively evaluate and discipline poor performers and handling fitness-for-duty and recordkeeping procedures with ease.
For more information on safety matters for the construction industry, visit AGC’s Safety and Health as well as AGC’s Labor and HR Topical Resources web page. From the latter, select the main category “Other HR Issues” and the subcategories “Safety Communications” and “Safety Incentives.”