Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Workplace Safety Requires Consensus

By: | October 16, 2014 • 2 min read
Marilyn Rivers, CPCU, ARM, AIC, currently serves as the Director of Risk and Safety - City Safety and Compliance Officer for the City of Saratoga Springs, NY and is a Director at Large and Delegate for the Government and Public Sector Division of the National Safety Council. She can be reached at [email protected]

Each of us brings a personal perception of reality to our definitions of how safe our workplaces are.

Here’s the challenge we all face in making workplaces safe across the country. Place a group of folks in a room and ask them to put together a plan and protocols to make it safe. Ask them to reach consensus on locking down their workplace.

For those of us who have tried to walk our contemporaries through the process, it can be mind-numbing, especially when working in the public sector.

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in local government have a higher incidence rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses (6.1 cases per 100 workers) than any other type of industry sector.

Public workspaces are designed for the community, the employees who provide the services and the folks who come to be served.

The balance between “by the people and for the people” can be treacherous.

These folks come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments. Their issues might be as mundane as a dog license and as complex as a child custody court case. The mix of service on any given day varies according to the weather, the deadline, the season and the crime.

Limiting access to public spaces requires a balance between the safety of the employee and the need for the public to feel there are no barriers to the services they seek.

Safety planning requires common sense and a sense of purpose. Both the public and the employee need to be satisfied that any approach to workplace safety is well-intentioned and does not restrict access to our unalienable right to good government.

Safety — one little word that carries a big message. Placing a barrier between the public and its government often creates suspicion and a cry of limitation or obstruction. Folks want to come face to face with the people whose taxes pay their government salaries.

The balance between “by the people and for the people” can be treacherous.

How safe is your workplace? Look around and measure the complacency of your co-workers.

Listen to the chatter — cameras that record your environment and monitor your safekeeping are construed as Big Brother watching. Gates, window service and counters that prohibit access are obstruction devices. Opponents of metal detectors and bag screenings argue they violate personal freedom and are unnecessarily invasive.

Employees within public spaces, however, will certainly testify that workplace safety measures are needed based upon statistical data, downright scary situations, questionable behavior and outright concern.

The process for establishing safety protocols is a journey best taken with an open mind and a sense of community.

Employees in all types of workplaces have to agree to participate in the protocols established for the good of the whole. If consensus cannot be reached, the results may be fatal.

Be tenacious and push for cooperation in agreeing that safety can be achieved without the perception of violation of privacy.

At the end of the day, each of us as risk managers have one goal — to get our employees home safe and sound to families awaiting their returns.

Read all of Marilyn Rivers’ Risk Insider contributions.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]