Developing An Effective Safety Program – A 3 Part Series

Submitted: December 2011

Part One: Commit to Safety

We begin with the idea of committing to safety. Why? Because regardless of the steps you take to implement a safety program, the commitment of management and employees will be instrumental in making your efforts successful. 
The support of top management is a critical element in developing a comprehensive approach to safety. OSHA emphasizes that employees’ attitudes toward safety are linked to that of management. The OSHA Small Business Handbook states, “It is essential that management’s personal concern be for employee safety and health, and the priority they place in the workplace.”

At its core, an effective safety program is built on the belief that employee safety is a top priority. That basic value is then supported by a clearly defined strategy that includes goals, objectives, two-way communication and an evaluation process.  Management can demonstrate the importance of safety with a few simple but direct actions:

  1. Create a written safety policy that expresses the company’s philosophy.
  2. Establish specific goals and communicate them to the organization.
  3. Assign responsibility for safety and give that person the tools and training to be successful. Four key classes for the designated safety person:
    1. Safety Management Techniques
    2. 30 hours OSHA Outreach- General Industry/Construction
    3. Incident Investigation: Root Cause Analysis
    4. Building a Foundation for Occupational Safety
  4. Create an expectation that all employees will be responsible for working safely and will be held accountable to do so.

Part Two: Identifying Hazards

Worksite safety is an ongoing process rather than a single event. Once you have established a few safety goals and assigned individuals to manage your safety plan, OSHA recommends analyzing the worksite to identify existing and potential hazards.  Worksite analysis addresses three key areas: people, equipment and work processes.

  • Review your facilities and work activities with a goal to actively pursue and uncover current and potential hazards.  A good place to start might be a review of your company’s injury history. Second, and perhaps most important is a thorough inspection of the physical environment including the workplace. Take time to consider the actual process by which employees accomplish their daily tasks. Note any tasks they perform which might be potentially hazardous.
  • Respond to Change. Any time changes are made to personnel, procedures or equipment, take the time to re-assess the potential for hazards.
  • Perform periodicself-inspections that evaluate new hazards and existing hazard controls. 
  • Encourage employees to report potential hazards without fear of negative repercussions. 
  • Perform thorough investigations both to prevent an incident from occurring and when an incident has been reported.

By addressing each of the five areas described above, you can identify potential hazards as well as create an atmosphere where long-term safety is considered essential to the success of the business.

Part Three: Prevent and Control Hazards

Once employers commit to safety and identify potential hazards they must find ways to mitigate the potential for mishap. In part three of our series on developing a safety program for your business, we provide a few tips on the most effective methods for preventing hazards.

The most effective way to control hazards is to eliminate them by making changes that improve equipment and work processes.
OSHA recommends owners:

  • Set-up work procedures and making sure employees understand and follow them.
  • Supply employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as safety goggles, hard hats, and respirators.
  • Ensure an effective program.
  • Provide regular equipment maintenance.
  • Create an emergency plan.

Train Employees, Supervisors and Managers

Training needs to be verified and tracked and should address three key groups: employees, supervisors and management.

  • Training for Employees should include both the potential hazards they may face as well as the steps required to protect themselves.  Along with the training, companies need to verify that employees understand the information provided to them.
  • Training for Supervisors must help them understand the hazards that employees face.  Supervisors must also learn to reinforce training with on-the-spot reminders, refresher sessions, and, if necessary, disciplinary action.
  • Training for top management should ensure that they understand the company safety and health responsibilities and know how to hold subordinate supervisors responsible for their own sphere of influence.

Training activities, as well as those of the three other program components, should be documented, both to meet legal requirements and to demonstrate good faith.