OSHA and Multifamily

When you hear OSHA, the first thing most people think about are the set of rules and advice for avoiding workplace injuries.  Ever present in American breakrooms, these reduce are a core liability reducer for multifamily operators.  Another major aspect of OSHA is workplace safety relating to our interactions with others, and in multifamily, our industry lands within a special subcategory commonly called “Lone Workers”.

To start off, what is a Lone Worker?

 

With that in mind, what are the real numbers when it comes to workplace violence?  Is it rare or common?  What situations are more likely to lead to a crime?  We’ve taken information from OSHA, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and NIOSH to provide multifamily owners and managers with an quick read about workplace crime.

 

What increase risk?

The following factors have been identified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health(NIOSH) as being likely to increase a workers risk.

  1. Contact with the public, also term a “customer facing business”
    • Example in Multifamily: Every prospect that walks into your property and asks to tour a vacant unit with your employee falls under this category. Unlike most Lone Worker jobs, however, leasing agents are required to go behind closed doors with unknown individuals creating a sharp spike in risk.
  2. Working alone or in small numbers
    • Example in Multifamily: Lightly staffed offices are the standard in multifamily. These small numbers are then exacerbated by the nature of each employee’s job – leasing agents work alone behind closed doors throughout the day.  Property Managers work alone in the office with one or two others.  Maintenance Technicians work all over the property working with machinery and tools alone.  In all cases, they define the Lone Worker description and the dangers that are entailed by this title.
  3. Working late or during early morning hours
  4. Working in high crime areas
    • Example in Multifamily: This is situational, but any veteran of multifamily has worked at or had a property or two in their portfolio in which they were on a first name basis with local law enforcement.  Every month there are reports of unexpected victims of violence at a community including office break-ins, shootings, stabbings, drug addicts lashing out, domestic violence, and more.
  5. Working in a community based setting
    • Example in Multifamily: Multifamily is a business of housing.  When things turn south, as in the case of an eviction, Property Managers are the focal point of a former residents ire, not the management company.  Taking away someone’s home is not just business, it’s very personal and in every office right now, an evicted resident can walk into the leasing office and have access to the Property Manager, greatly increasing his or her risk.
  6. Having a highly mobile work place
    • Example in Multifamily: This is true for Leasing Agents and Maintenance Technicians. If they’re doing their job, they’re not sitting in the office.  These individuals are highly isolated and are more vulnerable to risk.
  7. Working with unstable or volatile people
    • Example in Multifamily: In a continued theme, on-site employees are statistically more likely to run into unstable individuals than conventional office set ups (like corporate offices).  Property Managers are the face of the company and are the point of contact for not only the public, but also hundreds of residents living at the community, which inherently increases the level of risk to them.
  8. Delivery of goods and services strangers
    • Example in Multifamily: A risk increasing situation that most would not think of initially, on-site staff, especially Leasing Agents and Assistant Property Managers are often asked to post notices and distribute flyers around the community, generally in closed off hallways that offer limited escape.  In addition, Property Managers and Maintenance Technicians are required to inspect apartment units at times, which puts them in higher risk environments.

Each of these activities define what working on-site is for leasing professionals, apartment managers, and maintenance technicians.

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