An effective safety program is imperative for companies of all sizes. The toll of unsafe working environments is a high cost to companies and even higher cost to the workers. This means organizations must implement, measure, and manage safety programs along with the core business pieces. The sad fact is that even today, thousands of workers in the United States die every year as a result of going to work.
Many people use the OSHA guidelines and standards to develop effective safety programs. However, since the guidelines are the minimum standards that must be followed, companies often see the need to go above the OSHA standards to provide a safer working environment for their sector.
Effectively managing a safety program ensures that it is followed and enforced, which is impossible without management commitment and buy-in. For a program to be successful, it has to be pushed from the management down. A safety professional is often similar to other support roles; the only power the role has is what management grants. However, safety professionals are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace, so if management knew of a danger and did not implement the correct procedure, the company can be liable for the resulting injuries. This is a real danger that management faces; it’s in management’s best interest to make workplaces safer.
- Management Commitment: Often shown by a safety policy or program signed off on by the owner or president of the company. This will let the workers know the company is dedicated to safety and if immediate superiors go against it, they can do something about it.
Checking the Site
To identify the needed direction of the safety program, an organization must conduct a worksite analysis. Ongoing analysis is necessary because jobs and people continually change or adapt. A program to audit people, the jobsite, and the tasks needs to be implemented, along with a scheduled cadence.
- Employee Audit – The auditor will need to know the task to determine if the employee is performing the task in the safest way possible. Auditors check to make sure the correct personal protective equipment is in place, the ergonomics is adequate, and that the employee can perform the task according to the safe work guidelines set by the company. Special attention should be taken to audit and mentor new employees.
- Jobsite Audit – A jobsite audit looks into the environment, the site, and any dangers that the site itself can pose. This may mean air sampling to check for contaminants or the presence of exhaust, silica, or various dusts. The site should be checked for its terrain, slopes, and any dangers that could affect an employee, such as wildlife.
- Task Audit – A task audit looks at the specific task the employee is doing. An auditor will check for things like the tools needed for the task and ask questions such as: What is the condition of the equipment provided to perform the task? Is guarding in place? How well is everything maintained? What is the scheduled maintenance intervals and what checks are done before using the equipment? A task audit should also include equipment checklists.
Hazard prevention and control is crucial to a safety program. To manage the program well, guidelines for checking the hazards and evaluating the effectiveness need to be established. If a hazard or potential hazard does exist, then it is the employer’s responsibility to not only identify it, but reduce it to the lowest possible level. This means that the employer has to determine how to safely control the hazard, including:
- Elimination – The ideal scenario is completely removing a hazard. An example is an employee is removing a piece of equipment used or getting rid of the hazardous job task.
- Substitution – Can the hazard be substituted with a safer alternative? If a chemical being used is an inhalant hazard, can an alternative be found that is effective, but non-toxic?
- Administrative Controls – A limit on hours of work, number of employees to complete a task, and restrictions on the manner in which the task is to be done are all effective administrative controls.
- Personal Protective Equipment – The last line of defense for hazard control is personal protective equipment. This includes items such as protective clothing, gloves, hardhat, glasses, and boots. Personal protective equipment is always the last line of defense because it only comes into play once the hazard has affected the worker.
Periodically, the employer should conduct hazard analyses to evaluate the risks. New risks may have been introduced or the risk may have changed. The employer has the responsibility to stay on top of that and adjust the program as needed. Many times, the safety program outlines annual hazard checks and evaluation to determine if the current processes are adequate.
- To help build a case for implementing a safeguard or change in procedure, OSHA provides an advanced calculator called Safety Pays that outlines direct and indirect costs of injuries to the business in relation to defined profit margins.
Training the Workforce
Training the workforce is the last aspect of a safety program. As part of managing a safety program, safety training requirements should be developed. Training methods include mentoring, safety meetings, and safety courses. Employees must go through safety training to learn the best work practices. They should fully understand the tasks and the safest ways to do them. Supervisors should be available to help enforce safe practices and identify needs for re-direction or re-training. A supervisor is responsible for enforcing safe practices for the employees’ wellbeing and the liability of the company.
Every employee working on a task should know what is expected and what they need to do to complete the task safely. This is the most critical part of effective program management. To accomplish this, every employee should get training on hazard awareness and the best practices. The training needs to be engaging enough ensure retention. Whether its HAZWOPER training, OSHA Outreach, EM 385, or specialty certifications, 360training.com is the trusted source for quality, updated, on-demand training courses.
Reese, C. D. (2016) Occupational Health and Safety Management, A Practical Approach
Controlling or Eliminating Hazards. (n.d.) Princeton University EHS 2016. Accessed Dec 1, 2016. Retrieved from: https://ehs.princeton.edu/book/export/html/180
Hierarchy of Controls. (2016) NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology.
Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/
Injury and Illness Prevention Program White Paper (2012) Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/InjuryIllnessPreventionProgramsWhitePaper.html
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Fatal occupational injuries by industry and event or exposure, All United States, 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0241.pdf
Elements of an Effective Safety and Health Program. (n.d.) Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/dte/library/safety_health_program/index.html