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Workplace Safety and Health Information for Employers

Health and safety is good for your bottom line

  • Improving safety and health at your workplace can save your company money. Research shows that successful safety and health systems reduce the costs of injury and illness, and have a high return on investment.
  • Healthy employees are more productive than sick workers.
  • Showing your employees that you care about their health and safety, and the health of their families, can improve morale and employee retention.

Silicosis stories

Silicosis is a serious, but preventable, lung disease that can impact people of all ages. Watch the videos below to hear how silicosis has affected the lives of three Wisconsin workers and learn how workers can protect themselves from silica dust.

Hear the stories of three Wisconsin workers impacted by silicosis.

Resources

Engineers discuss plans at the shipyard

Recovery-Ready Workplace Toolkit from the US Department of Labor. Published January 10, 2024.

Avian Flu (HPAI) information for employers, P-03308, available in English and Spanish. Published September 8, 2022.

Recommendations for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation among migrant and seasonal agricultural workers (PDF) For employers in Wisconsin. Published September 1, 2022.

Measuring work-related risk of COVID-19: comparison of COVID-19 incidence by occupation and industry For all Wisconsin occupations during the period of September 2020-May 2021. Published August 4, 2022.

A farmer bend down to harvest lettuce leaves.

Interested to know the COVID-19 risk related to your line of work?

Read the study above that measured the risk of COVID-19 transmission across occupations and industries in the state of Wisconsin.

Check out the related fact sheet series on Work-Related Incidence for COVID-19!

Identify hazards in your workplace

Some workplace hazards are obvious, like machinery that can cause injury or chemicals that can be poisonous. When identifying hazards in your workplace, remember to include things like stress, working long hours, working night shifts, and noise. Once you have identified the hazards in your workplace, you can take steps to make your workplace safer.

Adequate ventilation in the workplace is one way to address some workplace hazards, including reducing the risk of airborne viruses and other contaminants. Read about the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge to learn how you can improve indoor air quality at your workplace. Carbon monoxide is one hazard that can be reduced with effective ventilation. Learn more about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in the workplace by reading What Employers Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide, P-02486, (PDF) also available in Spanish (PDF).

Workplace hazards can also be biological, such as poisonous plants and insects, or environmental, like long-term heat or cold exposure. These hazards can potentially cause uncommon conditions, that if left undetected and untreated may lead to death. For example, blastomycosis is a disease caused by a fungus too small to see with the naked eye. This fungus resides in dirt and soil, making it a potential hazard in outdoor workspaces. The fact sheet, Blastomycosis: Employers and Workers, P-03246 (available in English, Hmong, and Spanish), contains more information, including what symptoms to look out for and how to prevent your workers from being exposed to the fungus that causes blastomycosis.

Diseases are another type of workplace hazard. While some diseases spread from person-to-person, some diseases can spread to humans from animals. Workers who work with animals or animal products may need to take additional precautions to stay healthy. Health and safety information for farm workers can be found on the Occupational Health farm workers page.

Silica dust is a hazard that can cause irreversible lung damage if proper precautions are not taken. Read Silicosis: What Employers Need to Know, P-03261 (available in English, Spanish, and Hmong) to learn more about what silicosis is and how employers can minimize exposure to silica in the workplace. Learn more about silicosis and other occupational lung disease on the Occupational Lung Diseases webpage.

Thousands of Wisconsin workers are injured by slips, trips, and falls each year, some of them fatally. Falls are a particularly significant hazard in the construction industry. Learn how to prevent falls in construction sites at stopconstructionfalls.com.

Follow health and safety requirements

As an employer, you are required to provide a safe workplace for your employees. This means that you check your workplace to make sure there are no serious hazards, you train your employees in safe work practices, and you provide the equipment they need to do their job and stay safe.

Make a plan for pregnant and breastfeeding workers

Some workplace exposure can be more dangerous for pregnant or breastfeeding workers than for other workers. Think about what jobs in your company could be hazardous for your pregnant workers, and share this information with employees. Offer them the option to temporarily transfer into safer jobs while they are pregnant or breastfeeding. If only one part of a pregnant worker's job is hazardous, offer to have another worker take over that specific task temporarily.

Plan to protect temporary workers

Workers in temporary placements face a higher risk of workplace injury than their non-temporary colleagues. Employers are still required to keep them safe. Learn more about protecting temporary workers on CDC's website.

Personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment protects workers from death, injuries, and illnesses. Learn more about this equipment at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website.

Employers and businesses: Moving forward with flu, COVID-19, and other infectious diseases

Even though more Americans are vaccinated and boosted, it is still possible to catch COVID-19 and spread it to others. There are also other infectious diseases that can spread in the workplace. Read Employers and Businesses: Moving Forward with COVID-19, P-03257 (PDF) for points and resources to remember. Below are some key points:

  • Infectious disease outbreaks are bad for business. They can lead to absenteeism and lost time, which is lost money.
  • Workers who feel safe and respected are good for business. It's a great idea to offer sick leave and other benefits.
  • Remember that some people face more risks for severe illness than others.
  • Use the Center's for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) COVID-19 County Check to check your community’s COVID-19 hospital admissions level. Consider extra prevention strategies when admissions are high.

You can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases at your business

  • Open doors and windows when possible to improve air circulation, and use robust, well-designed ventilation systems that will not spread disease.
  • Encourage workers who have been exposed to an illness to stay home to avoid getting others sick.
  • Consider providing paid sick leave so infectious workers are not tempted to come to work.
  • Allow all workers and customers to wear masks if they choose. While not required, they are an inexpensive and highly effective way to reduce the spread of infectious illnesses.
  • Encourage your employees to be vaccinated and remind them to get their annual boosters.
  • Report to your local health department or tribal health center when an employee gets sick.

You don't have to deal with infectious illnesses alone

  • Your local health department or tribal health center can provide you and your employees resources on prevention and vaccination.
  • WisCON offers employer trainings, consultation, and tools on how to protect your workforce from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
  • For more Wisconsin COVID-19 resources and updates that can impact your business, visit the COVID-19: Businesses, Employers, and Workers page. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has additional guidance for health care and educational settings. (PDF)
  • Questions or concerns? Send an email to DHSCDESOutbreaks@dhs.wisconsin.gov

WisCon: Wisconsin's free consulting service

Onsite Safety and Health Consultation in Wisconsin (WisCon) is a free consultation service for Wisconsin employers seeking to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. Industrial hygienists, engineers, and nurses can evaluate and help you improve your hazard control measures for a safer work environment.

Request a free health hazard evaluation

If you want to make your workplace safer but don't know where to start, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health can help. A Health Hazard Evaluation is a free service from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that will give you advice about what kinds of health hazards might be in your workplace and what steps you can take to make your workplace safer. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health does not give fines if they find a hazard. Instead, they will help you fix the problems they find.

CDC-INFO

Email CDC-INFO or call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) for questions about workplace hazards. Your question will be referred to an occupational safety and health specialist.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Wisconsin Occupational Health and Safety Program

Selected text adapted with permission from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Questions? Can't find what you're looking for? Email us at dhsocchealth@dhs.wisconsin.gov.

Last revised February 5, 2024