Developing a Health and Safety Program

Commitment is key to keeping your workplace safer

Compliance begins with commitment and a health and safety program tailored to fit the company, to blend with its unique operations and culture and to help employers maintain a system that continually addresses a focus on prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses. Every effective program should include management commitment and leadership, employee involvement, workplace analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and performance goals and measurement.

When OSHA comes in to evaluate your company, one of the first things it looks for is a written health and safety program along with training documentation and material safety data sheets (MSDS), if applicable. But I never tell a client we’re creating a health and safety program just to be OSHA compliant — we’re creating the program because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s also a good return on investment because preventing employee injuries saves the company money. Particularly for small or newer companies, avoiding downtime can make the difference in whether the company survives.

The team
The larger the firm, the easier it is to designate a health and safety officer. The smaller the company and the fewer the employees, the easier it is for health and safety measures to be overlooked or missed.

Responsibility for employee safety always rests at the top with the owner or manager, but typically it is the first line supervisor who is most capable of keeping workers safe. He or she has direct day-to-day contact with the workers and needs to be aware of what resources and tools are available. However, the safest companies are those where employers and employees work together to make safety and health a priority and a responsibility equal with production and quality.

This partnership can be achieved by involving employees in health and safety policymaking, committees, and posting the company’s written safety and health policy for all to see.

Management should show its commitment by investing time, effort, and money in the company’s safety and health program, abiding by all safety and health rules, and holding regular meetings that focus on employee health and safety.

Analyzing the problem
To conduct a worksite analysis, you and your employees must analyze all worksite conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards. This should be done on a regular, timely basis and there should be an up-to-date hazard analysis for all jobs and processes that all employees know and understand. There are a number of different web sites that have checklists that allow a quick internal health and safety audit.

It’s very important to involve your employees in the hazard analysis process and include their knowledge of the job and tasks. It will help minimize oversights, ensure a quality analysis and get workers to “buy in” to the solutions because they will share ownership in the health and safety program.

Review your worksite’s history of accidents and occupational illnesses that needed treatment, losses that required repair or replacement, and any ‘near misses’ in which an accident did not occur but could have. These are indicators that the existing hazard controls may not be adequate.

Discuss with your employees the hazards they know exist in their current work and surroundings. Brainstorm with them for ideas to eliminate or control those hazards. Don’t wait until your job hazard analysis is complete or an incident occurs to fix any problems that can be corrected easily.

An ounce of prevention
To maintain a good safety and health program, your work environment and work practices should be reviewed continually to control or prevent workplace hazards. Begin by regularly and thoroughly maintaining all equipment. Ensure that hazard correction procedures are in place and that all employees understand and follow safe work procedures. There are many good programs that include tools for recognition and control of workplace incidents that lead to injuries or illnesses. Many include time to observe workplace behaviors and education to prevent hazardous conditions.

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