Establishing a safety and health program in your workplace is one of the most effective ways of protecting your workers. It sets the stage for a proactive approach to finding and fixing workplace hazards rather than a reactive approach. It enables you to solve issues before they can cause injury or illness.

Thousands have used OSHA’s guidelines as a blueprint for setting up an effective safety and health program; however, there have been many changes since these guidelines were published in 1989.

  • The nature of the work has evolved, changing from a more fixed to an often mobile workforce.
  • Automation of work activities means that technology, computers and robotics are being integrated into our workplaces, often introducing new and different hazards.
  • The workforce is aging and an increase in sedentary work may put workers at a higher risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Increased temporary and contract employment means that traditional relationships between workers and employers are shifting. This shift requires changes in safety programs and policies to ensure the safety of all workers at the worksite.

What started as four elements, has now been expanded to seven elements, reflecting changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues

The benefits of implementing OSHA’s recommended practices.

Of course, the main goal is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths along with the suffering and financial hardship these events can cause. Other benefits of safety and health programs include:

  • Improvements in product, process and service quality
  • Better workplace morale
  • Improved employee recruiting and retention
  • A more favorable image and reputation

10 Easy Things to Get your Program Started

OSHA put these simple steps together to help you get your program started.

  • Set safety and health as a top priority. Your key message should be: going home safely is the way to do business. Make sure your employees know that you will work with them to find and fix any hazards.
  • Lead by example. It’s not enough to tell employees what to do; the management team needs to practice safe behaviors and show workers that they mean what they say.
  • Implement a reporting system. Make sure that employees know how they can report injuries, illnesses, incidents, hazards or any safety and health concern without fear of retaliation.
  • Provide training. Make sure your workers know how to identify and control hazards. A handy tool is OSHA’s Hazard Identification Training Tool.
  • Conduct inspections. Be sure to inspect the workplace with your workers. Ask them to identify anything that concerns them. Use checklists to help identify problems. OSHA’s Small Business Handbook is another tool to use.
  • Collect hazard control ideas. Include employees in the safety program. Ask for ideas on how to improve the program. Allow them time during work hours to research solutions
  • Implement hazard controls. Assign workers the task of choosing, implementing, and evaluating the solutions they come up with.
  • Address emergencies. Brainstorm potential foreseeable emergency scenarios. Develop instructions and procedures on what to do in these situations. Be sure the final outcomes are posted in visible locations.
  • Ask for input on workplace changes. Always consult with your workers before making any significant changes to the workplace, equipment, materials, etc., so that they can help you identify potential safety or health issues.
  • Make improvements. Make time to discuss safety and health issues. You never know when someone will have an idea on how to improve the program.

This is a list of very basic items that OSHA put together to help get your workplace moving on the path toward an effective safety and health program.

Tools to Use

When you’re ready, find out more about the seven core elements

Another handy tool is OSHA’s Correspondence Among Existing SHP Standards, Guidelines and Recommendations Tool, which compares the core elements and action items from OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to other safety and health program standards and guidelines.

photo credit: Novartis AG Fabrikstrasse 22 via photopin (license)