When you get off on the right foot, it helps to make sure the safety management system and programs will work effectively. Here are some important points to remember:
Set safety and health as a core corporate value – not just a priority.
To understand what we mean by the statement above, let’s take a closer look at the definitions of “values,” and “priorities,” and then look at the difference between the two concepts.
You have all seen the “Safety First” sign in the workplace. It is a value statement written as a priority. If the company does not actually keep safety first, in word and action, employees will be reminded every time they see the sign that management does not live up to its values. Consequently, the safety culture will suffer.
A few examples of safety expressed as a value include:
Practice safe behaviors yourself and make safety part of your daily conversations with workers. This is important to make sure managers and supervisors are displaying effective leadership.
Ask these important questions to determine if you, as a manager or supervisor, are demonstrating leadership by example:
Supervision: Have I provided adequate safety oversight? I'm not stuck in my office all day. I'm overseeing their work regularly so I'm able to detect and correct unsafe behaviors and hazardous conditions before they cause an injury.
Training: Have I provided (or has the employee received) quality safety training? The employee has the required knowledge and skills to comply. The employee understands the natural and system consequences of noncompliance.
Accountability: Have I applied safety accountability fairly and consistently in the past? The employee knows he or she will be disciplined if caught.
Resources: Have I provided the tools, equipment, PPE, fall protection and other resources to do that job safely? Tools, equipment, machinery, PPE, etc. are always in good working order.
Support: Have I provided adequate psychosocial support that promotes working safe? Do I give employees enough time to work safely? Do they know I am tough on safety because I care about them and their success?
If you, as managers or supervisors can honestly answer "yes" to each of the above questions, you are fulfilling your very important responsibilities and demonstrating effective leadership by example.
Develop and communicate a simple procedure for workers to report any injuries, illnesses, incidents (including near misses/close calls), hazards, or safety and health concerns, without fear of retaliation. Let’s look at some ways management can help make reporting safety issues effective.
You may read it is important to allow employees to report hazards or concerns anonymously, and in some instances, that is true. But remember, everything we do sends a message to someone.
What is the message when we allow or encourage anonymous reporting? It tells employees they may have good reason not to trust management.
In a world-class safety culture where trust exists, employees would not think to report anonymously. This might be because they will be positively recognized every time they report. This will increase reporting, which represents a leading indicator of effective safety management.
Of course, it's important to properly train all workers on how to identify and control hazards in the workplace. However, too often "training" takes a back seat to other operational priorities, and that is one of the primary reasons the company may have a poor safety record.
There are two basic types of safety education: general instruction and technical training.
When OSHA shows up at your workplace to conduct routine inspections or accident investigations, what do you think might be the first safety area they look at? If you said, "training," that is correct!
Why would OSHA first look at your safety training program? Because they know it is the program most likely to be inadequate, or the root cause for an accident. Make sure your safety training program is formal (in writing) and well-documented. Here is how to document training:
Employees should inspect the materials, the equipment, the tools they use, and their immediate workstation for hazardous conditions at the start of each workday. They should inspect equipment such as forklifts, trucks, and other vehicles before using them at the start of each shift. Again, it is better to inspect closely and often.
Inspection Checklists: Use checklists, such as those included in OSHA's Small Business Handbook (PDF), to help identify problems.
Use the following steps if you are asked to write questions for a safety inspection checklist:
By its very nature, the walk-around inspection, as a process, is ineffective in uncovering most of the causes of accidents (unsafe behaviors). This is because most inspectors look primarily at hazardous conditions and do not take enough time to effectively watch and analyze work procedures. Sometimes the inspectors walk into an area, look up, look down, look all around, and possibly ask a few questions, and move on to the next work area.
It is possible to inspect a work area on Monday, and then experience a fatality on Tuesday because of an unsafe work behavior that the inspection failed to uncover the day before. The solution is to take your time when inspecting, watch work being accomplished, and ask questions.
In addition to the walkaround inspection, other strategies can be effective in obtaining ideas from employees to improve safety in the workplace.
Assign workers the task of choosing, implementing, and evaluating the solutions they come up with. When implementing hazard controls, or any change for that matter, it is important you take small steps. This idea is central to Deming’s PDSA Cycle as described in the image below.
As you can see, the first step is to design and develop the hazard control strategies. Base your design on objective facts and best practices within the industry.
Next, implement the control strategies in a limited manner. If you have many facilities, implement the control strategy in one facility (unless an imminent danger situation exists).
See how the control strategy has improved the process or work area. If the control strategy works, then move on to the next step. If it doesn’t revise the change or throw it out and start over.
If the control strategy works, then adopt it in all relevant locations. It is also important to conduct follow-up analysis by moving on once again to the first step of the cycle.
Identify foreseeable emergency scenarios and develop instructions on what to do in each case. Meet to discuss these procedures and post them in a visible location in the workplace.
If the possibility of uncontrollable releases of hazardous substances or fire can occur at the workplace, and the employer expects employees to control those emergencies, a Hazardous Waste Emergency Response Plan (HAZWOPER) may be required.
It is smart business for your company to partner with OSHA by participating in one or more of the programs below.
This program recognizes small business employers who have used OSHA's On-site Consultation Program services and operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance of your worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles you out among your business peers as a model for worksite safety and health.
These OSHA programs promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.
OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.
The consultation is confidential and will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff. No citations or penalties are issued and your only obligation is to correct serious job safety and health hazards--a commitment which you are expected to make prior to the actual visit and carry out in a timely manner.
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