When most Human Resources professionals hear the phrase ‘employee safety’, several things come to mind:  OSHA compliance and workers’ compensation, for instance.  But while some workers face many physical safety risks in their daily job duties, for most employees safety at work means something completely different.

How Many People Feel Unsafe at Work?

There are plenty of employees who aren’t worried about getting physically harmed at work, but they feel unsafe every day they enter the office.  Some feel unprotected from intimidation or harassment.  Some feel like their job isn’t safe because a supervisor might lie about their performance.  A small number even feel unsafe because they know illegal activities are happening around them, and the perpetrators want to get rid of them because they aren’t complicit in the behavior.

More workers experience this lack of safety than ever experience a lack of physical safety.  In the Office of Personnel Management’s latest [Federal] Governmentwide Management Report, 77% of all employees said that employees were protected from health and safety hazards on the job.  Only 70% said that Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPP) weren’t tolerated, however, and only 56% said that personal favoritism or coercion for partisan purposes weren’t tolerated.

Also alarming was that only 66% of federal employees felt they could disclose a suspected violation without reprisal.  This means that, when discrimination or PPP violations are happening, many employees are unlikely to report it because of the retaliation they expect to face.  And while local- and state-level workforce statistics aren’t widely available, it’s likely that these employees face many of the same challenges.

Employees placed in these situations are unlikely to stay engaged in the workplace – in fact, there’s a good chance that many agencies’ best employees will leave without ever disclosing the reasons, leaving bad behavior and corruption to fester in the agency long after their departure.

How Do You Improve This Type of Employee Safety?

Unfortunately, it takes much more than better safety equipment to improve a deficit in this type of worker safety.  Good employees must feel that they’ll be protected from retaliation when they report wrongdoing.  Bad employees must believe that they’re going to get caught if they continue to engage in inappropriate behavior.  Finally, the agency must have systems in place to catch bad behavior – through some combination of hard physical evidence and tips from workers.

To provide a safe environment for employees, local, state and federal agencies’ HR departments must be focused on educating their workforce on improper behavior as well as preventing, detecting and investigating that improper behavior.  And while education and prevention efforts may be effective for agencies without toxic cultures or corrupt employees, it will likely take investigations and consistent disciplinary actions to demonstrate an unwillingness to tolerate bad behaviors at agencies with serious challenges.

Does your agency’s HR department have a plan in place to help employees feel safe from illegal personnel practices, harassment, and questionable ethics of lousy co-workers?  Do you provide education on what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t?  And do you have a robust process in place to detect, investigate and discipline employees who do exhibit this behavior?  If not, it might be time for your agency’s HR department to focus on the other type of workplace safety – the more commonly faced safety hazard of workplace toxicity.

To learn how CMTS:HR can help your agency manage investigations more quickly and efficiently, call us at 855-636-5361 or email us at Team_CMTSHR@CMTSHR.com.