What Safety Tips Help Keep Seasonal Workers Safe? December 11, 2020
Seasonal workers make up a significant percentage of the workforce in the United States, particularly during the hectic holiday season. To meet the increased demand, retailers, manufacturers, warehouse employers, and delivery companies hire seasonal workers for a limited period. Although these workers encounter the same workplace hazards as permanent, full-time employees, they do not always receive the same level of training and supervision. As a result, seasonal workers are often at an increased risk of being seriously injured on the job. If a seasonal worker suffers an injury while on the job, he or she may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can assist injured workers with the claims process and any questions and concerns they may have.
What can Employers Do to Keep Seasonal Workers Safe?
Companies who regularly hire seasonal workers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all employees, whether they are part-time, full-time, permanent, or seasonal workers. These companies depend on seasonal workers to get through the busy holiday shopping season, but many of these workers are either brand new to the workforce or lack specific experience. Simply being unfamiliar with the facility can increase the risk of injuries if there is heavy machinery, sharp tools, or other potentially dangerous hazards on the premises. Employers can take the following steps to make sure that their seasonal workers are safe throughout the holiday season:
- Examine the workspace. Even if the necessary safety systems are in place, it is highly recommended that employers look at the areas where seasonal employees will be working and make sure there are no safety hazards present. If there are any changes, improvements, or repairs that need to be made, they should be done before new employees start work.
- Communicate a safety-first attitude. From the interview process to staff meetings, employers can make it clear to workers that safety is a top priority. Safety protocols should be discussed and reinforced regularly with all employees, including seasonal workers. Employers should not place unreasonable demands on workers or encourage shortcuts that can compromise safety.
- Schedule general training. Regular training sessions for seasonal workers will help ensure that these employees are following procedures correctly and reduce the risk of injuries.
- Encourage teamwork. It is highly recommended that seasonal workers be teamed up with a more experienced employee who can act as a mentor and teach the seasonal worker how to do the job safely. The mentor can also provide regular feedback by pointing out what the seasonal worker is doing well, and where improvement can be made to prioritize safety.
- Address work hazards. It is important that all seasonal workers be properly trained, particularly if they will be operating heavy equipment, using sharp tools, lifting heavy objects, or working from heights. For example, if working from heights, seasonal workers should be trained on the appropriate fall protection. When working with certain types of machinery, workers must be trained on the proper usage and safety procedures, including lockout/tagout.
- Give workers a tour of the facility. All new employees should be given a tour of the facility. In addition to showing seasonal workers where they will be doing most of their work, employers are responsible for making sure that they understand their roles, how to operate equipment necessary to do their job, and the personal protective equipment necessary to specific tasks. Employers should also point out ledges and safety structures that help prevent falls and other injuries that can occur when employees are working from upper levels.
- Discuss the role of technology. There are often robotic devices used in warehouses, facilities, and distribution centers. Employers need to make seasonal workers aware of these machines and explain how and when they are used so that they know how to safely interact with the machines and avoid injuries.
- Train seasonal workers on the proper use of safety equipment. Depending on the job, safety equipment may be critical to do the work safely. For example, seasonal warehouse workers who will be operating heavy machinery, such as forklifts, must be trained on how to safely turn on, operate, and turn off the machine.
After the holiday rush has passed, it is always a good idea to discuss the safety protocols that worked well, what needs improvements, and whether new hazards appeared that employers need to address.
What Safety Tips Should Seasonal Workers Follow?
Although it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all employees, there are steps that workers, including seasonal workers, can take to make safety a priority and prevent workplace injuries, including the following:
- Avoid distractions. Workers are urged to pay attention to the task at hand and be aware of their surroundings. Rushing should be avoided, as this can increase the chance of mistakes being made, which can result in injuries. This is particularly important for workers who operate heavy equipment, use sharp tools, or who perform tasks on elevated surfaces.
- Pay attention to floor surfaces. Slip and fall accidents are among the most common workplace accidents. They can be caused by uneven flooring, spills, loose rugs or mats, or debris on the floor. These accidents can be avoided by wearing footwear with good traction; using caution when walking on wet, uneven surfaces or stairs; and allowing plenty of time to get from one area of the facility to another.
- Minimize stress. Stress levels run high during the holiday season. Too much stress can impact workers’ health and productivity. Workers can manage stress by getting plenty of exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
- Avoid fatigue. When workers become exhausted, they can lose focus and become easily distracted. This can be dangerous when job responsibilities include operating machinery, using sharp tools, or working from elevated surfaces.
How Should Employers Protect Seasonal Workers from COVID-19
In addition to the general safety protocols that employers are responsible for enforcing, they must also take proactive steps to protect workers from exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace. Seasonal retail workers who are employed at operations with high customer volume are at an increased risk of exposure. Employers can take the following steps to protect their employees:
- Whenever possible, employers should install physical barriers to separate retail workers from customers.
- The floor should be marked with tape to indicate where customers should stand while waiting in line. This will help enforce social distancing.
- Customers can be encouraged to use self-checkout kiosks when possible.
- Employees should wipe down all credit card terminals, pens, and other commonly touched surfaces after each customer.
- Management can limit the number of customers allowed in the store at one time.
- Workers should be encouraged to take frequent breaks so that they can wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
- Employers must provide the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves.
- Workers should be encouraged to stay home if they do not feel well.
- All employees should stay six feet away from each other when possible.
- Delivery workers should leave boxes at doorsteps, loading docks, or other locations that avoid person-to-person interaction.
- The sharing of tools and equipment among workers should be discouraged.
- Seasonal employees who work in stockrooms or loading docks should wait until the store is closed or during a slow period to stock shelves.
- Companies should coordinate with vendors and delivery companies so that loading dock workers have minimal contact with delivery drivers.
- Management should make sure that tools, machinery, and other surfaces are disinfected using an Environment Protection Agency-approved cleaning product that claims to kill COVID-19.
- Employees should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfecting products.
- Employers should provide a hand washing station that also includes alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol.
- A flexible work site and staggered shift can be established when possible.
- Management should encourage all employees, including seasonal workers, to report any safety concerns they might have to a supervisor as soon as possible without fear of retaliation.
What are the Most Hazardous Seasonal Jobs?
According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the following are some of the most hazardous occupations, many of which employ seasonal workers:
- Driving a motor vehicle
- Excavation work
- Manufacturing of brick, tile, and related products
- Roofing operations
Seasonal workers who are injured while on the job may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits, including medical expenses, lost wages, and any other costs associated with the injury. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can assist injured workers with the claims process.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Injured Seasonal Workers
If you or someone you know was seriously injured while working as a seasonal employee, do not hesitate to contact the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. For free consultation, please call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we are available to assist clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.