Course 601 - Essentials of Occupational Safety and Health

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Safety and Health Programs

A group of people in a circle with their hands extending to the middle
Employees will care about safety if management cares about employees.

A workplace safety and health system includes many programs that describe what people, business owners, managers, and employees do to prevent injuries and illnesses at their workplace. A workplace safety and health program may be just a concept, but it is an important one. Effective management of worker safety and health protection is a decisive factor in reducing the extent and severity of work-related injuries and illnesses and related costs.

An effective safety management system includes provisions for the systematic identification, evaluation, prevention and control of workplace hazards, and continuous improvement of its programs.

Elements of a Safety Program

An effective occupational safety and health program will include the following main elements:

  • Management commitment and Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Safety Involvement
  • Safety Communications
  • Hazard Identification and Control
  • Accident Investigation and Analysis
  • Safety Education and Training
  • Continuous Safety Improvement

Effective programs have clear principles that focus on priorities and guide program design. Developing an effective safety management system begins with conducting an initial baseline survey to asses and evaluate existing programs and policies within the company. The information gained from the baseline survey can be used to improve weak policies, programs, processes, and procedures.

1. Which activity to used to assess, evaluate, and improve the safety management system?

a. Invite OSHA to inspect
b. Perform surface cause analysis
c. Conduct an initial baseline survey
d. Inspect and conduct interviews

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Management Commitment and Leadership

Commitment and Leadership wins big.

Top Management Commitment (TMC) is defined by how much time, money, and concern the employer gives to safety. The degree to which managers demonstrate TMC indicates their understanding of the benefits derived from an effective safety management system.

It is essential to the success of your company's safety and health program that top management demonstrates not only an interest but a serious long-term commitment to protect every employee from injury and illness on the job. But, if you think you don't have that level of commitment, how do you get it? Real commitment doesn't just appear out of thin air. What is the secret?

Here's the secret - management commitment to safety will occur to the extent each manager clearly understands the positive benefits derived from their effort.

Understanding the benefits will create a strong desire on the part of management to improve the company's safety culture. Managers will invest serious time and money into effective safety management by developing what I call the "6-Ps" within each element in the SMS:


Every day, employees, supervisors, and managers have many opportunities to communicate and act in ways that demonstrate safety leadership. Unfortunately, these opportunities go unanswered because they are not seen as opportunities. Employers and managers do not understand that the simple expression of tough-caring safety leadership can result in enormous benefits. The inability to perceive leadership opportunities as they arise limits the company's potential to succeed.

2. What is the "secret" in getting top management commitment to safety?

a. Understanding the benefits
b. Implementing a strong disciplinary program
c. Developing a close relationship with OSHA
d. Continuous inspection process

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Workers with hard hats
Accountability must be fair and objective: not based on feelings.


It's important that the employer fulfill legal obligations to the law and every employee. Effective workplace safety accountability exists if: appropriate behaviors are objectively evaluated and result in effective consequences.

An effective accountability system will include all of the following elements:

  1. Formal (written) standards and expectations. Before employees can be held accountable, management must develop and communicate clear standards of employee behavior.
  2. Physical resources. Before management can hold employees accountable, they must first fulfill their obligation to provide employees with the tools and equipment to perform safely.
  3. Psychosocial support. Management must provide adequate psychosocial support so that employees can achieve standards of behavior.
  4. A process to evaluate behaviors. It's important that behaviors, not outcomes, are measured and evaluated so that discipline is based on facts, not feelings. Employees should be disciplined only for substandard behavior, and the safety management system has not failed the employee. Punishing an employee for getting hurt is never justified.
  5. Effective Consequences. Consequences should be "progressive" to be effective. Effective discipline will change behavior in the desired direction. The discipline that changes the behavior of one employee may not change the behavior of another.
  6. Appropriate application of consequences. Appropriate consequences ensure discipline is justified and perceived as fair. For discipline to be considered justified and fair, supervisors and managers should first conduct a self-evaluation to make sure they are meeting their obligations to employees.
  7. Evaluation of the accountability system. Evaluation is essential in order to continually improve the accountability system. Management should analyze the system to determine how well it's working, and then evaluate the system to make a judgment about its effectiveness.

3. Effective workplace safety accountability exists if appropriate behaviors are objectively _____ and result in effective _____.

a. analyzed, management
b. evaluated, consequences
c. identified, outcomes
d. determined, data

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Manager and employee wearing hard hats
Employees can participate in the safety and health program by volunteering to take part in workplace inspections.

Safety Involvement

The best safety programs occur when everyone shares responsibility for their personal safety. For that to happen, all employees must know they are helping to develop a program. Employees at all levels should be actively involved in finding and correcting safety and health problems. In other words, effective safety and health programs involve the employee who has a stake in its success.

One of the best ways to involve employees is through active participation as a member of a safety committee. A safety committee is a group of employees representing labor and management, who are responsible for promoting workplace safety and health. Employees can volunteer to be part of the committee, or they can be nominated by their co-workers.

Below is a list of examples of employee involvement in a safety and health program.

  • Employees help review and improve the program.
  • Employees take safety education and training classes. They can identify hazards and suggest how to eliminate or control them.
  • Employees volunteer to participate in the safety committee.

Employee participation means they are encouraged to participate fully in the safety and health program. That includes the review and investigation of injuries and illnesses, periodic workplace inspections, regular safety and health meetings, and recommendations to the employer with respect to the administration of the program elements. Effective employee involvement includes the right of employees to ask for outside opinions and information on safety and health questions that are related to the workplace.

4. What is one of the best ways to involve employees in safety?

a. Give them positions of responsibility
b. Ask them to report violations
c. Regular communication with OSHA
d. Membership in a safety committee

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Safety Communications

Seedling growing into a full size plant
When forming an effective safety and health program, be willing to start small and then scale up as time goes on.

Effective communication is essential for a successful program. Everyone with a stake in worker health should have knowledge of what is being done and why it's important to them and their co-workers. Management should also provide periodic updates to employees and needs to keep the program visible through data-driven reports.

Content vs. Relationship Communications

An important concept in communications is the Two-Level Theory, which states that in any communications process, messages are sent and received on two levels.

  • Content Level - What is said. The first level is called the content level and describes the "data" that is being sent. The only information transferred at this level is data, usually in the form of informal spoken words or formal written material.
  • Relationship Level - How it is said. The second level of communication is a little more abstract. I has greater impact on those who receive the message. It's called the relationship level, which describes the communication that establishes the relationship between the sender and the receiver. It is how the message is sent that sets up the relationship. Relationships between the sender and receiver are always established with every communication. Generally the tone of voice and body language combine to set up relationships.

It's important to know that a person will be more affected by how you say something (relationship level communication), for instance, the tone of your voice than by what you say (content level communication).

If you are a safety committee representative, think about the relationship set up between you and your co-workers. What happens when you receive their concerns and suggestions, report them to the safety committee, but fail to provide feedback in a timely manner? Aren't you ignoring them? That's the worst of all possible responses. Make sure you get back with your co-workers as soon as possible to let them know the status of their concerns or suggestions. This is probably your most important job as a safety committee representative.

5. A person will be more affected by the _____, for instance, the tone of your voice than by what you say.

a. relationship level communication
b. content level communication
c. data relevance of your message
d. depth of meaning

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Hazard Identification and Control

A workplace hazard is any unsafe condition or practice that could cause injury or illness to an employee. Most accidents are ultimately caused by weaknesses in the safety management system because those weaknesses affect the effectiveness of the safety program, which, in turn, affect behaviors and conditions in the workplace.

Primary Sources of Hazards (MEEPS)

There are five primary sources of hazards in the workplace:

  1. Materials. Includes flammable/explosive substances, toxics, chemical reactions.
  2. Equipment. Includes unguarded machines, equipment defects, electrical contact, ergonomics, high pressure, vibration.
  3. Environment. Includes hazardous atmospheres, radiation, temperature extremes, working at elevation, noise levels.
  4. People. Includes use and abuse of drugs, alcohol, fatigue, and workplace violence.
  5. System. Includes flawed policies, programs, plans, processes, procedures, and practices

Methods to identify Hazards

There are four important methods to identify hazards in the workplace:

  1. The walkaround inspection - identifies hazards in various work areas so that they can be mitigated.
  2. Observation - identifies safe and unsafe behaviors to improve control strategies.
  3. Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) - identifies hazards and safe work procedures for hazardous jobs.
  4. Accident Analysis and Investigation - identifies surface and root causes for accidents so that controls can be implemented.

Methods to Control Hazards

The "Hierarchy of Controls" includes six stratgies used to control hazards and exposure in the workplace. The first three strategies eliminate or reduce the hazard, while the last three can eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards. The highest priority is to eliminate the hazard because if you don't have the hazard, you are much less likely to have an accident.

Click on the button to see the strategies to control hazards and exposure to hazards.

Hierarchy of Controls

This version of the HOC is from ANSI Z10 guidelines.

  1. Elimination. Completely eliminate the hazard to that it cannot cause an accident. This is your first priority, if feasible.
  2. Substitution. Replace materials, equipment, etc., with something that reduces the hazard to acceptable limits.
  3. Engineering controls. Design the environment, materials, tools, equipment and machines so that they do not present hazards.

Exposure Controls

  1. Warnings. Place OSHA signs (Danger, warning, caution, or safety instruction), audible alarms (klaxon, whistles, buzzers), or tactile warnings (vibration or fans) that alert employees about the presence of hazards.
  2. Administrative controls. Develop policies, programs, processes, procedures, practices, rules, and signage to eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards.
  3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE and Fall Protection is used in conjunction with other controls to eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards.

6. What is the top priority in controlling hazards?

a. Administrative controls
b. Engineering controls
c. Substitution
d. Elimination

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Accident Analysis and Investigation

Seedling growing into a full size plant
Analyze each event to discover surface and root causes for the accident.

Accident analysis and investigation is a critical process. The purpose of the process is different, depending on who conducts it: The employer analyses accidents to fix their safety management systems, while OSHA investigates accidents to determine if the employer violated OSHA regulations. Do you see the difference?

An effective employer accident analysis process will include the following steps:

  1. Secure the accident scene to make sure things are not moved or removed.
  2. Collect facts about what happened by conducting interviews, taking photos/videos, making sketches, and observations.
  3. Develop a sequence of events to discover how the accident happened.
  4. Analyze each event in the sequence to discover the surface and root causes of the accident. Surface causes
  5. Develop recommendations for immediate corrective action and long-term system improvements.
  6. Write the accident report detailing findings.

There are three levels of analysis that must be completed to make sure the accident analysis is effective:

  1. Conduct Injury Analysis to discover the direct cause of injury. This always involves the interaction between the hazard and employee exposure. For example, a burn injury is the result of an employee's hand coming into contact with a flame.
  2. Conduct Event Analysis to look for hazardous conditions and employee behaviors in each event that caused or contributed to the accident. For example, analysis discovered that the burn to the hand was caused by the employee forgetting to wear personal protective equipment.
  3. Conduct System Analysis to identify related root causes: those underlying management system design and implementation weaknesses that contributed to the accident. Look for inadequate policies, programs, plans, processes, procedures, and practices affecting general conditions and behaviors. For instance, the analysis uncovered that the employee was not wearing PPE because there was inadequate supplies.

7. Which level of analysis is conducted to look for conditions or behaviors that caused or contributed to an accident?

a. Injury analysis
b. Event analysis
c. Program analysis
d. System analysis

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Education and Training

Seedling growing into a full size plant
Safety training's primary goal is to increase knowledge and improve skills.

Safety education "tells why." Education builds the philosophical foundation that establishes why safety is important. Education transfers general knowledge and explains natural and system consequences. The goals of safety education are to primarily increase knowledge and improve attitudes. Here are some important things to remember about safety education:

  • General/Specific information and instruction is presented
  • Knowledge and skills are not measured or evaluated
  • Trainers may write goals for students. Instructional objectives are not required
  • All you have to do is attend to get a certificate
  • Measurement and evaluation focuses on student's reaction to the training session rather than learning
  • Measurement and evaluation tools include - surveys and evaluation forms

Safety training "shows how." Training is one form of education that helps build specific knowledge and skills to perform safe procedures and practices. The goals of safety training are to primarily increase knowledge and improves skills. On the job training (OJT) is a very effective training strategy. Important points to remember about safety training include:

  • The training describes general/specific policies, procedures, practices
  • Trainers should write goals and learning objectives for students
  • Knowledge and skills are measured and evaluated immediately after training in the learning environment
  • Trainers measure and evaluate learners using oral/written exams and skill demonstrations
  • Learners must "pass a test" in class to get a certificate
  • This level is required for certifying employees who are "qualified" to perform hazardous procedures and practices.

Experience can improve skills. Experience is a natural form of education. Experience within a supportive safety culture will help to further increase knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) about safety in the workplace. It's important to understand how important the safety culture is to safe performance.

Consequences can sustain behavior. Consequences motivate employees to learn. When employees understand the natural consequences (hurt or health) of their actions, they're more likely to use safe procedures and practices. Employees are also more likely to comply when they understand that system consequences (discipline, recognition) will be administered.

8. Which of the following helps build specific knowledge and skills to perform safe procedures and practices?

a. Instruction
b. Education
c. Training
d. Experience

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Continuous Safety Improvement

It's important to think of safety as an important aspect of both product and process quality in the workplace. In this course, we'll address those concepts and principles that apply safety specifically to process safety. Let's take a brief look at how product and process safety differ.

Product quality is elusive. The only way you know you have it is by asking those who define it: The customer. All the company can do is to try hard to produce a product that fits the customer's definition of quality. When the product is designed to prevent injury or illness, the customer will define the product as safe. As we all know, customer perceptions about product safety are very important these days. Unfortunately, some companies do not take safety into consideration when designing their products. Consequently they may unintentionally design unsafe or unhealthful features into their products.

Process quality and safety are very closely related. Process quality may be considered error-free work, and safety, as one element of process, can be thought of as injury-free work. When an injury occurs, the "event" increases the number of unnecessary and wasted steps in the production process. How does safety fit into the continuous quality improvement philosophy?

Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle.

The Shewhart/Deming Cycle

After analyzing your safety management system, you may discover that one or more improvements are necessary, it's important to carefully develop and implement the change using a planned method.

One simple change management technique is to use the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle. It was first developed by Dr. Walter Shewhart and later applied by W. Edwards Deming, the father of total quality management, to transform the industry of Japan after World War II. He promoted the PDSA Cycle that was partly responsible for Japan's meteoric rise in manufacturing. He believed that statistics hold the key to improving processes, and that management must take responsibility for quality in the workplace because management controls the processes.

9. Which of the following is closely related to safety and is considered "error-free" work?

a. Process quality
b. Product quality
c. Service quality
d. Procedural quality

Check your Work

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Final Exam
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