OSHA names the Top 10 most frequent workplace violations — some of which may surprise you.

fpWhat hazards represent the biggest threats to employees at worksites across America? We all may have our own suspicions … but the federal government has been keeping records about them for years.

In fact, this week the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has published its annual list of the Top Ten most frequently cited violations it has found following inspections of worksites its officials undertake on a regular (and unannounced) basis.

The OSHA listing shines a light on the types of safety issues that are most pronounced in the workplace. Here’s OSHA’s latest list, based on the 12-month period from October 2014 through September 2015.  It’s headlined by fall protection, which is the most frequent OSHA standards violation:

  1. Fall protection violations (construction standard)
  2. Hazard communication (general industry standard)
  3. Scaffolding (construction)
  4. Respiratory protection (industry)
  5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout) (industry)
  6. Powered industrial trucks (industry)
  7. Ladders (construction)
  8. Electrical (wiring methods, components and equipment)
  9. Machine guarding
  10. Electrical (general requirements)

olOSHA publishes the list once per year to alert U.S. employers about the most common violations being cited so that they’ll take precautions to fix similar hazards in their own companies before OSHA officials show up to carry out an inspection.

Reviewing the list, some of the categories fall into the “everyone knows” category. Who doesn’t think that fall protection, scaffolding and ladders are major contributors to injuries in the workplace?

But then there are other OSHA violations like electrical systems and industrial trucks; it’s a little surprising to me to find them among the most frequently cited violations.

Which workplace threats do you think represent the biggest safety hazards to workers? Share your thoughts with other readers here.

E-mail response time expectations: “The faster the better.”

e-mail inbox managementEver since the advent of e-mail communications, there’s tended to be a feeling that correspondence sent via this mode of delivery is generally more “pressing” than correspondence delivered the old-fashioned way via postal mail.

After all, people don’t call postal mail “snail mail” for nothing.

At the same time, one would think that the proliferation of e-mail volumes and the today’s reality of groaning inboxes might be causing an adjustment of thinking.

Surely, most of the e-mail doesn’t need a quick response, does it?

If 80% or more of today’s e-mail is the equivalent of the junk mail that used to fill our inbox trays in the office in the “bad old days,” why wouldn’t we begin to think of e-mail in the same terms?

But a new survey of workers appears to throw cold water on that notion.

The survey of ~1,500 adults was conducted by MailTime, Inc., the developer of a smartphone e-mail app of the same name.  The survey found that a majority of respondents (~52%) expect a response to their work-related e-mail communiqués within 24 hours of hitting the send button.

Moreover, nearly 20% expect a response in 12 hours or less.

While the survey encompassed just users of MailTime’s app, the findings are likely not all that different for office workers as a whole.

Why is that?  I think it’s because, in recent years, the e-mail stream has become more “instant” rather than less.

Back in the early days of e-mail, I can recall that many of my work colleagues checked their e-mail inboxes three times during the day:  early in the morning, over the lunch hour, and as they were wrapping up their workday.

That’s all out the window now.  Most people have their e-mail alerts set for “instantaneous” or for every five or ten minutes.

With practices like that being so commonplace, it’s little wonder that people expect to hear a response in short order.

And if a response isn’t forthcoming, it’s only natural to think one of three things:

  • The e-mail never made it to the recipient’s inbox.
  • The recipient is on vacation, out sick, or otherwise indisposed.
  • The recipient is ignoring you.

I think there’s an additional dynamic at work, too.  In my years in business, I’ve seen e-mail evolve to becoming the “first line of contact” — even among colleagues who are situated in the same office.  Younger workers especially eschew personal interaction — and even phone contact — as modes of communication that are needlessly inefficient.

Of course, I can think of many instances where e-communications can actually contribute to inefficiencies, whereas a good, old-fashioned phone call would have cut to the chase so much more easily and quickly.

But even with that negative aspect, there’s no denying the value of having a record of communications, which e-mail automatically provides.

And here’s another thing:  MailTime estimates that around two-thirds of all e-mails are first opened on a smartphone or tablet device — so message deliverability is just as easy “on the go” as it is in the office.

It’s yet another reason why so many people expect that their communiqués will be opened and read quickly.

I agree that e-mails are easy and convenient to open and read on a mobile device.  But sometimes the response isn’t nearly so easy to generate without turning to a laptop or desktop computer.

So as a courtesy, I’ll acknowledge receipt of the message, but a “substantive” response may not be forthcoming until later.

… And then, when others don’t show a similar kind of courtesy, I think many of us notice!

Some larger companies with employees who are more geographically far-flung have actually adopted guidelines for e-mail etiquette, and they’ve applied them across every level of the company.

It seems like a good idea to get everyone’s expectations on the same page like that.

Incidentally, the preferred scenario for responding to personal e-mails isn’t really all that different from work-related expectations, even though personal communiqués aren’t usually as time-sensitive.  Respondents in the MailTime survey said that they expect to receive a response to a personal e-mail within 48 hours.  For nearly everyone, waiting a week is far too long.

HR managers’ views of new college grad hires: Curmudgeonly … or canaries in the coal mine?

Lack of professionalism among new hiresAs those of us in the world of business begin to add years (or decades) to our tenure, it becomes easier than ever to look at the younger crop of workers coming onstream and see traits that don’t align with our worldview about what is acceptable, “SFW” behavior.

Perhaps we’re too set in our ways. Maybe we’re not being flexible enough or making a sufficient effort to keep an open mind about proper office professionalism and etiquette.

But maybe we’re not offbase after all:  A new survey of HR professionals suggests that others have also noticed — and they’re not very forgiving, either.

In fact, this survey of ~400 human resources managers, which was conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College, found that opinions of recent college graduates in the workforce have grown more negative over the past five years.  (The survey is conducted annually.)

When asked about their experiences in recruiting and hiring recent college graduates, these HR managers were pretty unsparing in their criticism. Here are some of the opinions the survey uncovered:

  • More than one-third of HR respondents felt that the level of professionalism among new college-educated employees has worsened over the past five years.
  • Nearly half believe that the work ethic of new employees is worse today than before.
  • More than half of the respondents feel that new workers come into the workforce with an unrealistic air of entitlement.

What are some of the specific areas where HR managers see new hires failing to measure up? These were the most prevalent mentions in the York survey:

  • Appropriate appearance and dress
  • Punctuality and workplace attendance
  • Attentiveness
  • Staying on-task through to completion of assignments
  • Honesty

And that’s not all.

The human resources professionals in this survey reported that younger employees “appear arrogant” during the hiring process and once they come on the job.

Moreover, these HR professionals contend that new employees aren’t taking proper cues from older, more established workers in the office, but instead from their peers and friends.

A manifestation of this is the predilection to text co-workers rather than to communicate via e-mail messages, or through personal conversations and interfaces.

The basic problem with the attitudes of new company hires was pointed out by Deborah Ricker, director of the Center for Professional Excellence: “Acceptable behavior among peers is not necessarily acceptable among coworkers and superiors.”

Amen to that.

[Click here if you’re interested in downloading a full summary of the 2013 Professionalism in the Workplace survey results.]

Most of us can probably think of one or two examples of employees who personify many of the issues brought up by the HR managers in the York survey.

One example that comes to my mind from our own office’s experience was a young worker who decided she needed to take short naps during her lunch periods.

Nothing really wrong with that, except … she did so by lying down on the floor next to her desk — which was directly behind another worker’s cubicle. Imagine trying to do your work while having someone snoozing (snoring) at your feet!

If you have similar anecdotes about some of the younger hires in your office, feel free to leave a comment. It’ll be good for a chuckle or two – even if there’s an underlying context that’s way sober.