Due Diligence Compliance for Workplace Training

There is an important question that every person concerned with worker safety issues- “Are we in compliance?”

If you’re not sure, I encourage you to think about your own situation with respect to compliance training specifically workplace violence prevention and bullying and harassment prevention, as you read through this blog post.

More specifically, I ask that you think about the following regarding your policies and procedures:

  • Training
  • Reporting
  • Investigations
  • Implementation of recommendations stemming from those investigations

And now that our heads are in the right frame of mind, I will present you with a list of (drumroll please):

14 Key Lessons Regarding Workplace Training Due Diligence  

As you scroll through each lesson, make sure to ask yourself those four important words: “Are we in compliance?”

Lesson #1: You Must Take All Reasonable Steps – Not Just Some

The courts don’t expect your company’s Occupational Health & Safety Program to be perfect. To make a due diligence defense, your organization must prove that it made a reasonable effort to comply with the law to protect the worker’s health and safety. However, the courts will expect you to take all reasonable steps towards compliance— not just some.

Lesson #2: You Are Responsible for Foreseeable Events and Acts

The occupational health and safety laws only require companies to protect workers from reasonably foreseeable hazards. The standard for determining whether a hazard is foreseeable or not, is to determine what risks the company actually did foresee, and what a reasonably prudent person in the same situation would’ve foreseen.

If a safety incident or violation was foreseeable, the organization would be held liable if it didn’t take all reasonable steps to prevent the incident or violation. Make sure to think about this with regards to your bullying and harassment situation.

Lesson #3: You Must Take Action When Made Aware of Safety Issues and Hazards

If a hazard was not only foreseeable but actually known to the company, failing to address it is detrimental to a successful due diligence argument. Remember, in this case, those hazards are people.

Lesson #4: Safety Policies and Procedures Must Be in Writing

Verbal safety procedures are oftentimes easily misunderstood, which can result in serious consequences. Written safety procedures spelling out exactly what’s required and when it’s required are less likely to be confusing. As a result, courts will typically rule that due diligence requires written safety procedures. This is especially helpful for harassment prevention.

Lesson #5: You Must Properly Train Workers

In addition to an occupational health and safety program that includes thoroughly written safety policies and procedures, you must also properly train workers on those policies and procedures to prove that due diligence was done— that training must be adequate.

Lesson #6: You Must Document Training

Providing adequate training to workers isn’t going to help you prove due diligence if you cannot demonstrate that you provided such training. So, you must document the nature and extent of the training that the company provides to its workers.

Lesson #7: Training Alone Isn’t Enough – Appropriate Supervision Is Also Critical

As important as adequate training is, you must also ensure that workers are appropriately supervised while on the job in order to prove due diligence. After all, proper supervision is the best way to ensure that workers are actually applying their training.

Lesson #8: Supervisors Also Require Training

Workers aren’t the only people in the workplace who need training, the company must also train its supervisors. If a supervisor isn’t adequately trained and fails to fulfill their safety duties, it’s likely that the company will be held liable for this failure, not just the supervisor.

Lesson #9: Workers Must Understand the Importance of Safety Compliance

Businesses have a duty to ensure that workers follow safety rules and procedures and are complying with the occupational health and safety laws. To that end, you should take steps to convey to workers the importance of safety compliance, and the ramifications of non-compliance and safety infractions.

Lesson #10: Supervisors Must Be Held to A Higher Standard

Because supervisors are responsible for ensuring that workers follow safety rules and comply with the occupational health and safety legislation, they must be held to a higher standard when it comes to safety infractions. So, when a supervisor violates a safety rule, the consequences should be more severe than if a worker had committed the same infraction.

Lesson #11: You Can’t Delegate Supervision to Coworkers

You must ensure that workers are supervised by actual supervisors, and not leave that responsibility to their coworkers.

Lesson #12: You Can’t Delegate Compliance to Contractors

In general, employers can’t avoid fulfilling all of their occupational health and safety duties by delegating them to someone else, such as a contractor, or subcontractor.

Lesson #13: You Must Ensure Safety Information Is Accurate

Companies must give workers the information they need to perform their job safely. If the information is inaccurate, it’s almost as bad, if not worse, than not providing the information at all.

Lesson #14: Human Error Isn’t an Excuse for Non-Compliance

Companies are composed of human beings, and humans make mistakes. But courts are unlikely to buy the argument that because the safety violation was simply the product of human error, the company should be excused from liability.

So, we’ve come to the end of the list. I hope you’ve taken the time to ask that million-dollar question after each lesson…

“Are we in compliance?”

How many were you able to say “YES” to?

Regardless of your answers, keep this list handy as a template.

I encourage you to hold the list up against your program (whether it’s your Workplace Violence Prevention program or your Bullying and Harassment Prevention program) to highlight where your gaps may exist and what more you could be doing. This template is also a great way to generate dialogue about the importance of living up to your organizational and legal responsibilities to keep people safe at work.

Consider it a roadmap to completing your due diligence (even though it’s just the bare minimum…).

Enjoy the journey.