CEOs Action for Diversity & Inclusion (1) state that “… diversity and inclusion are multifaceted issues and that we need to tackle these subjects holistically to better engage and support all underrepresented groups within business. To do this, we believe we also need to address honestly and head-on the concerns and needs of our diverse employees and increase equity for all, including Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ, disabled, veterans, and women.”
More than 2,000 of the above CEOs, that are among the world’s leading organizations, pledged to do the following:
- We will continue to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion;
- We will implement and expand unconscious bias education;
- We will share best—and unsuccessful—practices; and,
- We will create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with our board of directors.
- The CEO diversity & inclusion pledge is accompanied by a pledge for individuals that includes:
- I will check my own biases and take meaningful action to understand and mitigate them;
- I will initiate meaningful, complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations with my friends and colleagues;
- I will ask myself, “Do my actions and words reflect the value of inclusion?”;
- I will move outside my comfort zone to learn about the experiences and perspectives of others; and,
- I will share my insights related to what I have learned.
An OHS pro’s role in diversity and inclusion, perhaps surprisingly to some, may be substantial. Concerns among underrepresented groups within workplaces often include psychosocial hazards such as interpersonal relationships, organizational and workgroup culture; civility and respect, violence at work, harassment, and bullying, among many others. Each of the examples provided come from ISO/DIS 45003:2020(E), OHS Management – Psychological health and safety at work: managing psychosocial risks – guidelines.
ISO 45003 aligns with ISO 45001:2018, OHS management systems – Requirements with guidance for use. ISO 45003 is best understood by review of the numerous hazard identification examples found in Table 1 – Aspects of how work is organized, Table 2 – Social factors at work, and Table 3 – Work environment, equipment, and hazardous tasks. The voting draft of ISO 45003 is circulated online but be aware that the draft is subject to change (likely very minor) when published as an international standard – on target for final release summer 2021.
Obtaining third-party certification for conformance to ISO 45001 is a primary business objective. Objectives for 45003, however, particularly for U.S. OHS pros, may more closely align with appreciation of document clauses such as those found at section 7.2 Competence, 7.3 Awareness, and 7.4 Communication. These clauses are best understood when the U.S. OHS pro commits to the individual diversity and inclusion pledge above, “I will check my own biases and take meaningful action to understand and mitigate them.”
A major concern of women, a CEO acknowledged “underrepresented group” at work is, “Will my employer treat me fairly if I become pregnant?” The federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) H.R. 1065 passed the U.S. House of Representatives with substantial bipartisan support on May 14, 2021. Following passage in the U.S. House, demonstrating bipartisan support, three Republicans and three Democrats, cosponsored a PWFA bill that aligns with H.R. 1065 in the U.S. Senate. Federal PWFA law is on target for passage summer 2021.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) summarizes that H.R. 1065, “Will require all public-sector employers and any private-sector employers with more than 15 workers to make reasonable accommodations for the known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of employees and job applicants. The bill would not require employers to make any accommodation that would impose an undue hardship on business operations.”
Although the federal PWFA borrows much of its language from the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the PWFA will be a stand-alone legislation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will enforce the Act. The CBO expects that for the first three years after the regulations are issued, the volume of claims related to pregnancy discrimination that EEOC receives would increase by about 20 percent (roughly an additional 500 claims) each year. Pregnancy discrimination claims would return to prior levels as employers adjust to the new regulations.
Involvement by OHS pros with the PWFA, particularly those with industrial hygiene expertise, will be substantial for top tier chemical, physical, biological, radiological, and newly developing psychosocial risks. A major objective of the PWFA is to employ reasonable accommodations to maintain worker inclusions at her assigned job. For example, about 20% of pregnant workers will experience episodes of migraine headaches. A reasonable accommodation to manage migraine headaches is to reduce workplace lighting and reduce workplace noise. IH expertise may be needed to appropriately reduce these hazards. A qualified IH should always be involved whenever a pregnant worker is exposed to any amount of a chemical reproductive or developmental hazard.
Another CEO acknowledged underrepresented group of workers are those people that have a qualified disability. Ramps and reserved parking places are classic accommodations promoted by the ADA to help ensure inclusion of disabled people into the workplace. The EEOC has considerable enforcement guidance for accommodation and undue hardship under the ADA. But as we learned during Covid-19, new ADA interpretations for workplace conditions and practices do occur. People with disabilities generally know what accommodations they need to perform work. As such, OHS pro involvement with disability accommodations are generally rare. An OHS pro involvement, however, should always occur if a disability or disability accommodation may pose a direct threat to the disabled worker or direct threat to other workers.
OHS pros are involved, with extent depending upon their proactive nature, with diversity and inclusion issues. If your CEO signed the Diversity & Inclusion pledge (double check, I was surprised by how many CEOs from my client organizations signed the pledge) or if your CEO otherwise has positive interest in the topic, then promoting your involvement may have career benefits. Be aware, however, that some people do not support diversity and inclusion, and some may hide their feelings. If non-supporters have influence over your OHS career, then carefully judge how proactive you should be.