Safety first” is good advice on any job, but it is especially appropriate for the varied and dynamic tasks assigned to co-op and condo building staff. Whether checking furnace valves, sealing minor plumbing leaks, keeping the lobby floors shining or getting that flickering light in the ninth-floor hallway fixed, the potential for accident or injury exists in just about any task, no matter how innocuous. Preventing those problems before they arise, however, is the key to a safe workplace—one in which management is fully invested in worker safety, and employees feel adequately protected.
Knowledge is Power
In recent decades, there has been a concerted effort to increase safety for workers on the job and in the office. Thanks to federal organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers have concrete guidelines to keep staff healthy and aware of potential hazards. These OSHA guidelines cover a wide range of on-the-job risks, providing detailed suggestions and requirements for everything from ladders to the insulation on laundry machine steam pipes to proper storage of certain industrial chemicals.
Employees, too, now have access to a wide range of information on what constitutes a safe workplace. From guidelines posted in the workplace to intensive training sessions designed to give people experience in avoiding or overcoming safety challenges, there are myriad ways to protect oneself on the job these days.
According to Richard Mendelson, the area director of the New York office of OSHA, the level of training will vary depending on the worker’s involvement with the materials or equipment they come into contact with within their particular industry. For the real estate industry and property managers, for example, the oversight on worker safety would be different than what would be required of an outside contractor or subcontractor that’s hired to complete a specific job like renovating an exterior facade. “The training component has to be commensurate with the work the employee is doing,” he says.
When it comes to trouble on the job site, it’s usually the mundane things that cause problems, says Mitchell Rosen of the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey (UMDNJ) in Piscataway. The UMDNJ’s Public Health Program includes the Worker Education and Training Center, which offers safety courses and outreach programs to everyone from hazardous materials workers to New Jersey state police officers. All told, the organization helps train more than 15,000 individuals on worker safety each year.