Our facility has numerous hazards; chemical, physical—you name it, we’ve got it. We train our workers on handling and avoiding them, but what about our visitors? I’ve been tasked with tightening up our visitor safety program. What suggestions do you have for me?
— Caroline C., HR Manager in Los Angeles
Most employers are careful about employee safety, but they often leave a gaping hole in their safety programs by not dealing with the issues nonemployees or other visitors create at their worksites. For example, not controlling site access can be a security issue—especially when domestic violence can invade your workplace. Or, failing to inform visitors about potential hazards could place them and your employees in danger.
Legitimate visitors, such as vendors and subcontractors, pose a challenge. For example, a vendor may be repairing a copy machine or examining your operation to prepare a bid on supplies, equipment, or services. Or you may have subcontracted highly hazardous work, such as confined space entry, or less hazardous work, like groundskeeping, and those workers are on your site. Perhaps members of the general public are visiting your workplace, such as students from the local university taking a tour. Have you considered the hazards these visitors might be exposed to—or can create by their presence?
7 Steps for Preventing Workplace Violence
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that more than half the companies in the United States have experienced some form of workplace violence.
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Create a Policy
Keep your workplace safe by creating and enforcing a policy for people who are visiting your property, which should cover:
Site security. Require all visitors to sign in when they arrive and sign out when they leave. When signing in, they should write down their company’s name, where on your site they will be, how long they plan to stay, and which of your employees, if any, they will be meeting with.
Consider issuing badges or other identification to visitors so employees can easily tell who shouldn’t be there, and instruct employees to report unauthorized visitors. Controlling who is on-site helps limit the potential for workplace violence and theft, both of which can create hazards for workers, and helps limit the general public’s exposure to potentially serious hazards.
Potential hazards to visitors. Your visitors may be exposed to potential injuries from site hazards such as moving equipment, noise, or extreme temperatures. If you don’t inform them of these dangers and the necessary precautions, and they are injured, you may be liable.
Make sure you warn visitors of the hazards that exist in the areas where they will be and the precautions they must take. For example, you may require them to stay out of restricted areas or wear a hard hat. Also let them know what steps to take in an emergency. They should know what emergency warnings sound like, how to exit the facility safely, and where to assemble.
Hazards created by visitors. Visitors doing potentially hazardous work—for example, abrasive blasting in preparation for painting surfaces—may create dangers in the workplace. Be aware of these hazards so that you can take precautions to protect your workers against them and ensure that contractors are working safely.