Guide To Planning and Implementing an OSHA Safety Program
Guide To Planning and Implementing an OSHA Safety Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a series of standards that are designed to address various hazards that exist in the workplace. An OSHA safety program is a set of policies and procedures created, documented, and implemented to manage health and safety in the said business to ensure it stays in compliance with these OSHA standards.
On the other hand, OSHA compliance is actually beneficial for employers to manage a business’s health and safety issues to effectively reduce and even eliminate the risks of workplace injuries and illnesses.
In this article, we will discuss how you should develop a proper OSHA safety program in a comprehensive step-by-step guide. By following these steps, you won’t only fulfill your business’s due diligence in staying compliant to OSHA standards, but will effectively make your workplace a safer environment to work in.
Without further ado, let us begin with the first step.
Step 1: Identifying Which OSHA Standards Apply to Your Company
The first and the most crucial step is to determine which OSHA safety standards apply to your business, and we can further divide this step into two sub-steps:
- Conducting a health and safety audit/risk assessment to determine which potential hazards are present
- Determine which OSHA standards are applicable for controlling these hazards
The safety audit should review the actual workplace environment, equipment, supplies/materials, people, and processes. All written procedures, plans, and other relevant documents should also be reviewed.Documentation is also a crucial aspect of a safety audit: all notes and findings in the audit should be compiled into a comprehensive report that can be easily understood both by employers, supervisors, and workers. An OSHA safety reporting and audit software can significantly help not only for the safety audit process, but for the whole planning and implementation of the OSHA safety program, as well as its execution and evaluation.
Step 2: Developing a Hazard Control Plan
Now that you’ve properly identified potential hazards in your workplace, as well as the corresponding safety standards, the next step is to develop a control plan for each hazard. The control plan should also stay compliant with the corresponding OSHA standards, and we should implement each hazard control based on the following hierarchy:
- Elimination: the best, most ideal option is to completely eliminate the hazard (and the environment/equipment/person/process/material that cause the hazard)
- Substitution: when total elimination is not possible, the next recommended approach is to substitute the hazard with a safer alternative. For example, the company should substitute older, potentially hazardous equipment with a new tool.
- Engineering controls: when substitution is not possible, engineering controls like putting machine guards and barriers should be put into place.
- Administrative controls: safety training, safety policies and procedures, comprehensive instruction manuals, and so on.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): when everything else is impossible to implement, the last resort is to provide PPE like hard hats, safety glasses, hazmat suits, etc. for the worker performing the hazardous task.
Providing PPE should always be considered as a last resort, only after all other hazard control options according to OSHA safety standards have been considered.
Step 3: Developing OSHA Safety Manual
Once you’ve identified a proper control plan for each hazard and correcting these hazards, the next major step is to start developing your OSHA safety manual.
This written document will contain:
- All potential hazards in the workplace and the corresponding control plan for each
- All of the specific OSHA standards which apply to the company based on the existing hazards
- Assigning key roles and responsibility for the execution of the OSHA safety program, as well as organizational structure if applicable
- Defining communication policies for both internal and external communications in the event of incidents
- Necessary steps in executing an emergency action plan
- Safety manuals for potentially hazardous equipment
- Safety policies for potentially hazardous activities
Again, a safety management software solution like iReportSource can significantly help in this step. A common mistake is for businesses to only use a generic health and safety manual (often downloaded for free) which might not necessarily apply to the business. It’s best to develop a customized safety manual based on your company’s specific operations and hazards.
Step 4: Safety Training Program
Once an OSHA safety manual has been developed, it’s important to educate and train workers and supervisors on how to follow this safety manual. Effective and comprehensive safety training is essential to the success of an OSHA safety program, but can often be the toughest challenge to tackle.
With that being said:
- Make sure safety training is customized to your operations. Again, generic training videos or other free resources might not be necessarily appropriate for your business’s needs and will be a violation of OSHA standards. Eco Online offers online safety training where you can develop site-specific courses to suit your particular business needs.
- Refer to the OSHA requirements when designing your training modules. Some topics are only legally required to be trained once, but some others should be repeated annually.
- OSHA training should be a part of onboarding new employees, and this should be a major consideration if your company has turnover issues
- Refer to the relevant OSHA standards for the required training time for each topic. A common mistake is believing that a 10-minute training session is enough to stay compliant with OSHA standards, but most likely it’s not.
While OSHA safety training can be a challenging and expensive process, it is also a crucial part of implementing an OSHA safety program. Again, iReportSource can help you in implementing and monitoring your safety training program with its safety tracking and management features.
While staying compliant with OSHA safety standards can be quite challenging, it’s is a legal requirement for businesses located in the US, and failure to do so may result in fines and penalties, as well as serious legal implications.
It’s best to plan your OSHA safety program carefully and take it one step at a time through to completion.
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