Most companies prepare safety programs because of requirements for local and federal compliance. But a good safety program can do far more than simply keep you on the right side of the law. By helping you ensure that you have the right systems and programs in place, a safety program can help to ensure that your employees don’t get injured on the job. Because they are probably your company’s greatest asset, and are critical to meeting the needs of your customers, keeping employees safe and healthy also keeps your business safe and healthy.
The types of programs your business needs depends on your industry and the type of work you do. That’s why your first step in developing a safety program is to understand the rules or standards that apply to your industry. For example, if you’re in construction, CFR Part 1926 contains the federal laws related to worker safety. Most other industrial companies can look to CFR Part 1910 for regulations applicable to the safety of their employees.
What you’ll find in those regulations is the minimum you’ll need to comply with federal laws, so they form a good foundation for your safety program. To that, you’ll add your own company’s standards and opinions about safety. A well-crafted policy should serve as a written explanation of your company’s safety culture and the mission of your safety-related efforts. It may also outline minimum requirements for contractors who work on your sites (and for their subcontractors).
Having the plan in writing serves several purposes beyond meeting regulatory requirements. It says that your company is serious about safety. It’s a constant reminder that you’ll do business only in safe ways. In addition, it provides benchmarks against which safety performance can be measured and verified.
Some of the issues you’ll probably want to address in your safety program policy include:
- Hazardous Materials Communications. How will you make workers aware of the hazards involved with the chemicals they’ll handle or may come in contact with?
- Safety Inspections. How will you inspect the safety-related aspects of your operations to ensure that you and anyone else on your site are following the standards you’ve established?
- Roles and Responsibilities. It’s important to clearly define everyone’s responsibilities where safety is concerned, so you can prevent misunderstandings and omissions due to uncertainty about who is responsible for what.
- Orientations. In addition to understanding what your company does, it’s important to ensure that everyone working on your site understands your company’s expectations and philosophy regarding safety.
- Emergency Response Planning. This part of your policy spells out what workers and supervisors will be expected to do in the event of specific incidents. It should cover every situation that’s appropriate for activities on your site. For example, if a worker’s fall protection equipment successfully interrupts a fall, how should the other workers bring him to safety? What should workers do in the event of a fire or a tornado warning?
- Personal Protective Equipment. Spell out the PPE that will be required with specific tasks on the jobsite, and ensure that workers receive training that will allow it to be used properly.
- Investigations. When an incident occurs, how will you go about determining the cause and identifying steps to prevent a reoccurrence?
- Discipline. What steps will you take if one of your employees or another company’s employee fails to live up to your safety policies? Will they be sent home from the jobsite? Will discipline be progressive, with a warning for the first offense, followed by stronger penalties for subsequent offenses? Nobody likes discipline, but having and enforcing a clear policy tells workers that you’re serious.
You can develop your own safety program, but there are numerous well-documented advantages to turning to outside expertise. First, a safety professional will have a solid understanding of the state of the art in safety practices, so he or she will bring that level of knowledge and understanding to your needs. Second, developing a policy is a time-consuming effort that can take someone away from other work that needs to be done. Finally, a third party can take a more objective view of your company’s operations and needs, ensuring that your policy is appropriate and comprehensive – something that’s critical in today’s litigious business climate.
Mark Steinhofer, PhD, CHST is a Safety Advisor with Safety Management Group (www.safetymanagementgroup.com).
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