Thousands of responsible employers have used OSHA’s 1989 Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines as a blueprint for setting up an effective safety and health program. OSHA has recently updated the Guidelines for Safety and Health Programs to reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. The updated guidelines found in OSHA Publication 3855 – Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs is the primary reference for this course.
The program model contains seven core elements:
The seven core elements in a Safety and Health Management Program are interrelated and are best viewed as part of an integrated system. Actions taken under one core element can (and likely will) affect actions needed under one or more other elements. For example, workers must be trained in reporting procedures and hazard identification techniques to be effective participants. Thus, the "Education and Training" core element supports the “Worker Participation” core element. Progress in each core element is important to achieve maximum benefit from the program.
You will find implementing these recommended practices also brings other benefits. Safety and health programs help businesses:
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Management provides the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety and health program.
Management leadership means that business owners, managers, and supervisors do the following:
To be effective, any safety and health program needs the meaningful participation of workers and their representatives.
Worker participation means workers are involved in establishing, operating, evaluating, and improving the safety and health program.
Here are some reasons why workers should participate in safety:
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising a variety of rights guaranteed under the OSH Act, such as filing a safety and health complaint with OSHA, raising a health and safety concern with their employers, participating in an OSHA inspection, or reporting a work-related injury or illness. OSHA vigorously enforces the anti-retaliation protections provided under 11(c) of the OSH Act and other federal statutes. For more information, see www.whistleblowers.gov.
One of the "root causes" of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents is the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present, or that could have been anticipated.
A critical element of any effective safety and health program is a "proactive," ongoing process to identify and assess such hazards. Hazard identification and assessment are proactive because they are processes that occur before someone gets hurt.
Effective hazard identification and assessment includes:
Hazard prevention and control processes are conducted after hazards are identified and assessed. They help employers prevent existing and potential hazards and eliminate or otherwise control hazards in the workplace.
Effective hazard prevention and control methods protect workers and have the following benefits:
Safety and health education, through general instruction and technical training, is important for informing workers and managers about workplace hazards and controls so they can work more safely and be more productive.
It is important to make sure both instruction and technical training are emphasized. If employees do not know why safety is important, they are less likely to care about how to work safely.
Safety and health education also provides workers and managers with a greater understanding of the safety and health program itself, so they can contribute to its development and implementation.
Effective safety and health education programs have the following characteristics:
Once a safety and health program is established, it should be evaluated initially to verify it is being implemented as intended. Employers should periodically, at least annually, assess the program. Employers should assess what is and is not working, and whether the program is on track to achieve its goals.
Whenever these assessments identify opportunities to improve the program, management should adjust and monitor how well the program performs.
Sharing the results of monitoring and evaluation within the workplace, and celebrating successes, will help drive further improvement.
Effective program evaluation and improvement include the following characteristics:
In today’s economy, an increasing number of workers are assigned by staffing agencies to work at specific “host” worksites under the direction and control of the host employer.
Examples include seasonal workers, such as delivery drivers and warehouse workers, who help fill temporary staffing needs. In these situations, it is important for the staffing agency and the host employer to communicate and coordinate to provide and maintain a safe work environment for their workers.
In other situations, some workers are employed by a host employer and others by a contractor or subcontractor.
Examples include electrical or mechanical contractors working in a facility, a vendor installing or maintaining equipment, or long-term contractors providing building cleaning and maintenance. In these circumstances, it is important that each employer and contractor consider how its work and safety activities can affect the safety of other employers and workers at the site.
Characteristics of effective multi-employer communication and coordination include:
The seven program elements discussed in this module emphasize a proactive approach to managing workplace safety and health. Unfortunately, traditional approaches focus on a reactive approach. Let's look at the difference between the two approaches.
The concept of continuous improvement is central to an effective safety and health culture and related programs. W. Edwards Deming championed a continuous improvement process became known as the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle. We will take a closer look at this process in the next module.
Responsible employers know the main goal of a safety and health program is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, as well as the suffering and financial hardship these events can cause for workers, their families, and their employers.
Employers may find effectively implementing the best practices described in each of these core elements brings other benefits as well such as:
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