Safety in the workplace should be a serious priority for all employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of worker deaths and injuries has decreased by more than 60% since the institution of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This statistic shows that an increased focus on safety in the workplace is beneficial overall. Less risk for injury in the workplace means fewer worker’s compensation claims for the employer. Safety programs provide a wide range of benefits to both employees and employers. There are 4 essential elements of implementing an effective safety program.
What is a Safety Program?
An effective safety program, at its root, should keep employees safe and healthy. The goal of safety and health practices is to protect workers from present and potential hazards, as well as establish compliance with OSHA standards. A safety program can also improve morale and productivity by empowering employees with the tools and guidelines they need to complete their work safely and effectively.
4 Elements of a Safety Program
In 1989, OSHA issued four voluntary guidelines for the management and protection of employee safety. These guidelines address the issues of employee involvement, discipline, and reporting. The 4 elements of a safety program are as follows:
- Management Commitment and Employee Involvement
Company culture starts at the top and works its way through the rest of the company. Management buy-in is essential for creating a culture of safety in the workplace. Managers lead the way by setting a positive example and by displaying commitment to the safety of their employees. Managers need to make safety a core company practice in order to effectively implement their safety program.
Employee involvement is essential to the formation and implementation of the safety program in their workplace. Since they are on the front lines of the work, employees are most familiar with their specific workplace risks and dangers. Employees can raise concerns that management may overlook otherwise.
- Worksite Safety Analysis
In order to solve a safety problem, you need to know what the problem is. The worksite safety analysis intends to discover and identify any hazards or safety issues in the workplace. Initially, conduct a comprehensive, baseline worksite safety analysis that identifies any problem areas. After that, routine surveys of workplace safety should be done on a regular basis, like once a month or once a quarter. These routine surveys serve to continually identify any new or potential hazards on the worksite. Safety analysis is an ongoing project within the safety program.
- Hazard Prevention and Control
Using the information gathered from the worksite safety analysis, managers and employees should work together to decide and implement the best methods for eliminating or mitigating the effects of a safety hazard. There are two primary ways of dealing with a safety hazard. The first, and most effective option, is elimination. Removing the hazard from the work environment or a specific task is the best way to keep employees safe. Elimination may not always be an option though.
The second way to handle a safety hazard is through control. Control lessens the exposure of the hazard to employees. Decreasing the amount of time needed in a certain area of the work site, using more efficient equipment, or providing personal protective equipment (PPE) are all examples of hazard control. Regular inspections ensure that hazard controls are working and employees are following safety policies.
- Safety and Health Training
The final element of a safety program is arguably the most important. Safety and health training is the best way to promote safety awareness in the workplace and ensure that employees understand the safety procedures. Safety and health training should range from general safety guidelines, like wearing PPE, to specialized industry training, like DOT safety training. All staff should understand how the company’s safety program works and how to implement the guidelines.
Training can be done in a variety of methods and settings. Holding a safety training demonstration at the worksite is an effective way to visually show employees what safety should look like. Additionally, safety should be a part of daily discussions in the workplace, either during work or prior to the start of a shift. Periodic questionnaires can be used to evaluate your employees’ understanding of safety practices.
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