A “workplace safety and health program” is a term that describes what people, business owners, managers and employees do to prevent injuries and illnesses at their workplace. A workplace safety and health program is just a concept, but it is an important one.
There are several essential elements to consider when creating an effective safety and health program within a company.
Effective programs have clear principles that focus on priorities and guide program design. Program development also involves an initial inventory and evaluation of existing programs and policies within the company. Programs should reflect a comprehensive view of health. Remember, behavioral health, mental health, and physical health are all important components to remember. The system should also focus on ways to eliminate recognized occupational hazards in the work environment. Some changes in the work area (such as reduction in toxic exposures or improvement in work station design and flexibility) benefit all workers. The employees’ willingness to participate in worksite health-directed programs may depend on their perceptions of whether the work environment is truly health supportive. Employers should change the physical and organizational work environment to support the health goals of its employees. For example, blue collar workers who smoke are more likely to quit if workplace dusts, fumes and vapors are controlled and workplace smoking policies are in place.
The effective program should also be tailored to the specific workplace and the diverse needs of the workers. Workplaces vary in size, sector, product, design, location and worker characteristics. Successful programs recognize this diversity and are designed to meet the needs of both the individuals and the enterprise. Effective programs are responsive and attractive to a diverse workforce. One size does NOT fit all and flexibility is necessary.
Also, make sure the program lasts. Programs should be designed with a long-term outlook to assure sustainability. Remember, short-term approaches also have short-term value. Programs that are aligned with the core values of the enterprise tend to stick around! There should be sufficient flexibility to assure responsiveness to changing workforce and market conditions.
The best program occurs when everyone shares responsibility for their protection. For that to happen, all employees must know they are helping to develop the 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 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 peers.
Below is a list of examples of employee involvement in a safety and health program.
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. Also, under OSHA standards, employees are assured they will not be penalized for exercising their rights under workplace safety and health programs.
When forming an effective safety and health program, be willing to start small and then scale up as time goes on. Although the overall program designed should be comprehensive, starting with modest targets is often beneficial if they are recognized as the first steps in a broader program. For example, target a reduction in injury rates or absences. Effective communication is also 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.
You need to remember that besides protecting your employees, taking action on health and safety can also make a major contribution to business success. It will help stop accidents and work-related illnesses. A successful health and safety program will also reduce your accident losses, improve your profit and loss statement and help you become more efficient. Don’t think accidents can’t happen in your company and, above all, don’t wait for things to go wrong and then go for the “quick fix.”
The OSH Act encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. Each state program takes responsibility for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health standards in their jurisdiction. These programs cover 40 percent of the nation’s workforce, conducting enforcement inspections and providing consultative services. They also provide free training and outreach, encouraging employers and their employees to follow safe and healthful work practices. OSHA approves and monitors all state plans and provides as much as fifty percent of the funding for each program.
Remember, state-run safety and health programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program.
The following states have approved state health and safety programs:
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