Why Build an Occupational Safety and Health Program?

The length of such a written plan is not as important as the content. It should be tailored to the company's needs and the safety and health of its workforce. It could be just a couple of pages or a many paged document. In order to insure a successful safety program, three conditions must exist. These are as follows: management leadership, safe working conditions, and safe work habits by all employees. The employer must

  • • Let the employees know that he/she is interested in safety on the job by consistently enforcing and reinforcing safety regulations.
  • • Provide a safe working place for all employees; it pays dividends.
  • • Be familiar with federal and state laws applying to his/her operation.
  • • Investigate and report all Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable accidents and injuries. This information may be useful in determining areas where more work is needed to prevent such accidents in the future.
  • • Make training and information available to employees, especially in such areas as first aid, equipment operation, and common safety policies.
  • • Develop a prescribed set of safety rules to follow, and see that all employees are aware of the rules.

The basic premise is all employers should establish a workplace safety and health program to assist them in compliance with OSHA standards and the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHAct) [Section 5(a)(1)]. Each employer should set up a safety and health program to manage workplace safety and health to reduce injuries, illnesses, and fatalities by a systematic approach to safety and health. The program should be appropriate to conditions in the workplace, such as the hazards to which employees are exposed and the number of employees there. The primary guidelines for employers to develop an organized safety and health program are as follows:

  • 1. Employers are advised and encouraged to institute and maintain in their establishments a program that provides systematic policies, procedures, and practices that are adequate to recognize and protect their employees from OSH hazards.
  • 2. An effective program includes provisions for the systematic identification, evaluation, and prevention or control of general workplace hazards, specific job hazards, and potential hazards that may arise from foreseeable conditions.
  • 3. Although compliance with the law, including specific OSHA standards, is an important objective, an effective program looks beyond specific requirements of law to address all hazards. This effectively will seek to prevent injuries and illnesses, whether or not compliance is an issue.
  • 4. The extent to which the program is described in writing is less important than how effective it is in practice. As the size of a work site or the complexity of a hazardous operation increases, however, the need for written guidance increases to ensure clear communication of policies and priorities and consistent and fair application of rules.

The primary elements that should be addressed within this program are management leadership and employee participation; hazard identification and assessment; hazard prevention and control; information and training; and evaluation of program effectiveness according to OSHA guidelines.

A review of research on successful safety and health programs reveals a number of factors that these programs comprise. Strong management commitment to safety and health and frequent, close contacts between workers, supervisors, and management on safety and health are the two most dominant factors in good safety and health programs. Other relevant factors include workforce stability, stringent housekeeping, training emphasizing early indoctrination and follow-up instruction, and special adaptation of conventional safety and health practices to enhance their suitability to the workplace.

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