Last year, OHSA recorded over $30 million worth of monetary settlements related to OHS complaints. That’s almost double the 2019 figures.
Nearly a third of these pertained to the coronavirus. This serves to highlight the severity of current challenges. Clearly, business owners should sharpen their pencils regarding modern-day OHS challenges.
Effective safety plans are the backbone of any OHS policy. So, here’s what you need to know about implementing the necessary measures in your workplace.
What Are Safety Plans?
A safety plan is a written document designed to limit the dangers of common workplace activities. Safety plans apply to specific circumstances and tasks. The OSHA doesn’t insist on a general workplace safety plan, although some states do.
A basic safety plan template should include a description of the following:
- Identifying health and physical hazards
- Procedures to prevent workplace accidents
- What to do when accidents occur
Some safety plans are specific to certain activities, pieces of equipment, or hazards. Others refer to more general topics like injury and illness prevention.
Some organizations adopt voluntary safety plans to limit incidents. You can also combine all these policies into one comprehensive safety manual.
Mandatory Safety Plans
OSHA’s requirements include a list of 16 written plans for general industries. There are 10 different types of written construction plans.
Additionally, OSHA requires written plans for dozens of toxic and hazardous substances. These include benzene, lead, and asbestos.
You need a written health and safety plan for the following:
- Permit-required confined space plan where applicable
- Programs for servicing and maintaining equipment – hazardous energy control
- Respiratory protection where employees use respirators
- HAZWOPER plans for safety and health
- Fire prevention and emergency action plans
- A plan regarding exposure to bloodborne pathogens
- Hazard communication and safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals
Contravention of the latter is one of the most frequently cited OSHA violations.
Key Components of Every Safety Plan
If you don’t need any of the above plans for your business, OSHA still has requirements for protecting your workers.
All employees and supervisors must receive safety training. This should focus on any hazards they encounter at work and the relevant control measures for these tasks.
A written plan is a useful tool to standardize this training and ensure compliance.
According to OSHA recommendations, every safety plan has four basic elements:
Employee Involvement and Management Leadership
An effective health and safety plan requires buy-in from all levels in your business.
Your employees know their daily routine the best and should have their own best interests at heart. Get them involved in the process.
These are the factors involved in setting up and maintaining a great OSHA safety plan:
- Place your company policy in a visible place like alongside the OSHA Workplace Poster
- Meet with employees to discuss OHS objectives
- Management should get visibly involved in aspects relating to health and safety, such as following up on incident reports
- Absolute adherence to and supervision of safety requirements by supervisors and managers
- Get employees involved in inspections, training, and accident investigations
- Assign responsibility to clearly designated people
- Conduct annual reviews on OHS accomplishments
- Set up a system of accountability for non-compliance with OHS systems
Giving your employees a say in your policies helps ensure compliance and makes your job easier.
You can’t create an effective safety plan unless you know what your workplace hazards are.
One of the best ways to gain clarity on this issue is to meet with your state on-site consultant. They can offer guidance identifying potential hazards, both present, and future.
Once you’ve got the basics in place, you should implement the following:
- Regular policy reviews every time you change equipment or procedures
- Stay current on any newly developed hazards e.g. coronavirus
- Periodic reviews with employees to analyze their jobs and identify hazards
- A self-inspection system to keep tabs on hazards
- Facilities for employees to alert management regarding new hazards
- Thorough investigations in the event of accidents
It’s a good idea to analyze existing health and safety data too. This way, you can pinpoint areas that need attention and identify common weaknesses in your safety plan.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Once you know what hazards your workers face, you need to take steps to contain the risks. You do this by setting up systems to control these hazards or eliminate them.
Consider the following:
- Replacing toxins with non-toxic equivalents
- Set up stringent procedures for dealing with hazards
- Putting disciplinary measures in place for those who flaunt safety rules
- Providing PPE where necessary
- Implement emergency procedures and conduct drills
- Set up procedures for dealing with medical emergencies
- Post emergency numbers in prominent locations
- Make sure nearby medical facilities can deal with emergencies stemming from your business
Key personnel must familiarize themselves with emergency procedures. Stage regular walk-throughs of possible scenarios to keep everyone up to speed.
If something slips through the cracks, amend your policies accordingly. Make sure you brief all interested and affected parties too.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility, so train all your employees accordingly. Management, contractors, workers, and visitors must also receive a safety briefing.
Basic OSHA requirements state that no employee should perform a task until they’ve received training. Likewise, no employee is ever expected to do anything they perceive as unsafe.
Make sure your employees know these facts. You can implement the following to help them perform at their best:
- Training on every aspect of their job that involves potential hazards
- Close supervision of new employees or those undertaking new tasks
- Training for supervisors on the hazards their employees face
Your senior employees are an important element in ensuring worker safety and hazard mitigation. Make sure they’re always informed and motivated to enforce rules.
Keep Your Business Running at Its Best
Comprehensive and compliant safety plans keep you on the right side of the law and avoid expensive fines and lawsuits. They can also limit safety incidents that might limit or halt production and affect your profits.
OSHA legislation exists to protect your greatest assets, namely your workers.
Keep browsing our blog for more helpful tips on how to run your home and business best.
Also published on Medium.