The time to start your safety and health management system is now, as you can address the practical concerns of putting these elements together and coming up with a program to suit your workplace. First, you must decide what you want to accomplish and to determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals. Next, you need to establish how and when each step will be done and who will do it. When creating a safety and health management plan, consider your company’s immediate needs and provide for ongoing, long-lasting worker protection. Once your plan is designed, it is important to follow through and use it in the workplace. You will then have a program to anticipate, identify and eliminate conditions or practices that could result in injuries and illnesses. Here are some tips to get you  started:

Ask for Help
If you have difficulty deciding where to begin Helpside offers these services and more. A phone call to your broker, consultant, or workers’ compensation carrier, can also get you started. A consultant will survey your workplace for existing or potential hazards. Then, he/she will determine what you need to make your safety and health program effective. The consultant will work with you to develop a plan for making these improvements and to keep your program effective..

Whether you choose to work with an outside resource, or to develop your system in-house, many publications are available from Helpside that outline the steps that you can take to create an effective safety and health management system for your workplace. The rewards for your efforts will be an efficient and productive workplace with a low level of loss and injury.

Designate Responsibility
As the business owner or manager, one of the first things you will need to do is determine who is the most appropriate to manage your safety and health system. Who can ensure that the program will become an integral part of your business? In many cases, it will be you. Sometimes it will be a plant manager or key supervisor. It could even be an engineer, personnel specialist, or other staff member. Whoever you choose should be committed to workplace safety and health, have the time to develop and manage the program and be willing to take on the responsibility and accountability that goes with operating an effective program. The individual will need your full cooperation and support, but the ultimate responsibility for safety and health in your workplace rests on you.

Determine the Regulations that Govern
Next, determine which branch of government, Federal or state, has jurisdiction over your business. If you are not sure what agency is responsible for administering workplace safety and health in your state, contact the nearest OSHA area office for more information. You will need certain Federal OSHA publications (or comparable state publications) for use in your safety and health activities, such as the following:

  • OSHA Workplace Poster (Job Safety and Health Protection—OSHA 3165). You must display the Federal or state OSHA poster in your workplace. This poster is also available in Spanish (Job Safety and Health Protection OSHA-3167).
  • OSHA standards that apply to your business. Standards are regulations that OSHA uses to inspect for compliance and should be the baseline for your inspections in determining what to do when hazards are identified. Most businesses fall under OSHA’s General Industry Standards. If you are involved with construction or maritime operations, you will need the standards that apply to these classifications. (In states with state-run occupational safety and health programs, use the appropriate state standards.)
  • Recordkeeping requirements and the necessary forms.
  • Obtain a copy of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 for reference.

These references can be found on your State’s website if you are in an OSHA approved State-run plan, or on the Federal OSHA website.  Online access is often better than the published documents, because they are free, and they are kept up to date.

Organize the Workplace
The next step is getting organized. Poor housekeeping can contribute to low morale and sloppy work. Most safety action programs start with an intensive cleanup campaign in all areas of the workplace. Get rid of unnecessary items, provide proper waste containers, store flammables properly, make sure exits are not blocked, mark aisles and passageways, provide adequate lighting, etc. Also, get everyone involved and emphasize that you want to make your workplace safer and more efficient.

Start Gathering Specific Facts About Your Situation
Before making changes in your safety and health operations, you should gather information about the current conditions and business practices that comprise your safety and health program. This information can help you identify problems and determine what is needed to solve them. Your workplace assessment should be conducted by the person responsible for your safety and health management system and/or a professional safety and health consultant. The assessment consists of two major activities:

1. Identifying any existing or potential safety and health hazards. This initial survey should focus on evaluating workplace conditions with respect to safety and health regulations and generally recognized safe and healthful work practices. It should include checking on the use of any hazardous materials, observing employee work habits and practices, and discussing safety and health problems with employees.

2. Assessing your existing safety and health program and identify areas that work well and those that need improvement. You should gather as much information as you can that relates to safety and health management in your workplace. Include the following in the review:

  • Safety and health activities. Examine ongoing activities as well as those tried previously, company policy statements, rules (both work and safety), guidelines for proper work practices and procedures and records of training programs.
  • Equipment. List your major equipment, what it is used for and where it is located. Special attention should be given to inspection schedules, maintenance activities and plant and office layouts.
  • Employee capabilities. Make an alphabetical list of all employees, showing the date hired, their job descriptions, experience and training.
  • Accident and injury/illness history. Review first aid cases, workers’ compensation insurance payments and review your losses. Compare your insurance rate with others in your group. Give special attention to recurring accidents, types of injuries, frequency, etc.

After gathering facts, see if any major problem areas emerge such as interruptions in your normal operations, too many employees taking too much time off due to illness or injury, too many damaged products, etc. General help with this kind of problem identification can often be obtained from compensation carriers, local safety councils, trade associations, state agencies, major suppliers or similarly situated businesses in the same industry. Helpside will have this information if you are a client.  If you discover a major problem, see what can be done to solve it. Once a problem is identified, you can work on the corrective action or a plan to control the problem. Take immediate action and make a record of what you have done. Even if you find no major problems, don’t stop there. Now is time to develop a comprehensive safety and health program to avoid any major problems in the future.

Establish a “Six Pillar” Safety and Health Management System
The success of any workplace safety and health program depends on careful planning. This means that you must take the time to analyze what you want to accomplish and develop an action plan in order to attain your goals. From this standpoint, you can design a step-by-step process to take you from the idea stage to an effective safety and health management system.

The best way to create a safe and healthful workplace is to institute the Six Pillars. In doing so, establish your management commitment and involve your employees. No safety and health program will work without this commitment and involvement. The first step is to designate a person to be responsible for your safety and health program.

Then, involve your employees as widely as possible from the beginning. They are most in contact with the potential and actual safety and health hazards at your worksite and will have constructive input on the development of your program. The ultimate success of your safety and health program will depend on their support.

Make sure your program assigns responsibility and accountability to all employees in your organization. A good safety and health program makes it clear that each and every employee carries responsibility for his/her part of the program. Make safety and health duties clear and hold every individual accountable for his/her safety- and health-related duties. Establish clear cut policy and procedure to help deliver the vision that management and the employees share.

The third pillar is training.  Training programs, and accountability to those programs, are specifically required by law for many of the standards.  Training programs also are shown to reduce incidents, increase productivity, and improve morale when properly implemented.

To help decide what your employees should be trained on, establish and regularly conduct a worksite analysis. The fourth pillar to a strong and successful safety and health program depends on an accurate identification of all the hazards and potential hazards in your workplace. This is an ongoing process that includes routine self-inspections.

Beyond that, create systems and procedures to identify, prevent and control hazards identified through your worksite analysis. OSHA standards can be helpful because they address controls in order of effectiveness and preference. The hierarchy of controls is engineering, administrative, work practice and personal proactive equipment (PPE). Whenever feasible, engineering, administrative or work practice controls should be instituted even if they do not eliminate the hazard or reduce exposure. Use of such controls in conjunction with PPE will help reduce the hazard or exposure to the lowest practical level. Where no standard exists, creative problem-solving and consultant resources may help you create effective controls. The basic formula for controlling workplace hazards, in order of preference, includes the following:

  • Eliminating the hazard from the machine, the method, the material or the facility.
  • Abating the hazard by limiting exposure or controlling it at its source.
  • Training personnel to be aware of the hazard and to follow safe work procedures to avoid it.
  • Prescribing PPE for protecting employees against the hazard and ensuring that they not only use it, but that they know how to use it correctly.
  • Establish and provide ongoing training for employees, supervisors and managers to ensure that everyone at your worksite can recognize hazards and how to control them.

The fifth pillar to a strong safety program is to establish an incident management initiative.  This includes incident investigations, root cause analysis, and corrective action measures at a minimum.

Finally, a strong safety and health management system requires you to measure, evaluate and improve your system by periodically checking your progress and measuring against the established goals. Continuous improvement is the sixth pillar of a strong safety culture.

Establishing your safety and health programs on these six pillars is a formula to ensure long-term success.

Establishing a quality safety and health management system will take time and involve some resources, but you should be pleased with the results. Employees will feel reassured because of your commitment to their safety and health on the job. You may save money through increased productivity and reduced workers’ compensation insurance costs. You may gain increased respect in your community. The tangible and intangible rewards for a solid safety and health program far outweigh the cost of an accident, injury or workplace fatality.

For more information or to get started, see our blog Six Things You Need To Build a Successful Safety Culture, or view our free Safety Bootcamp.  If you need further information, please contact us at(801) 443-1090 for more assistance in finding and building your safety culture, by establishing safety programs.