Elements of a Safety and Health Program
Having a safety and health program in your workplace is one of the most effective ways of protecting worker safety and health. An effective program seeks a proactive approach to identify, evaluate, and control workplace hazards, specific job hazards, and potential hazards that may arise from foreseeable conditions. The main goal of safety and health programs 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 employers.
Although compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and the law is an important objective, a good program looks beyond specific requirements of OSHA to address all hazards. A good safety and health program intends to prevent all injuries and illnesses, whether or not compliance is an issue.
OSHA’S recently updated Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs present a step-by-step approach to implementing a safety and health program, built around seven core elements that make up a successful program.
The Importance of Worker Participation
Throughout these recommended practices, OSHA emphasizes the importance of worker participation in the safety and health program. For a program to succeed, workers (and, if applicable, their representatives) must participate in developing and implementing every element of the safety and health program. This emphasis on worker participation is consistent with the OSH Act, OSHA standards, and OSHA enforcement policies and procedures, which recognize the rights and roles of workers and their representatives in matters of workplace safety and health. Several action items described in these recommended practices rely on perspectives, expertise, and input that can come only from workers and their representatives.
When More than One Employer is Involved
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, as well as office and production workers who may be placed in both short- and long-term assignments. 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. These employers should pay particular attention to the “Communication and Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors, and Staffing Agencies” section to ensure protection of everyone on the worksite.
Recommended Control Measures To Prevent Injuries
Employers should select the controls that are the most feasible, effective, and permanent.
Eliminate or control all serious hazards (hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm) immediately.
Use interim (temporary) controls while you develop and implement longer-term solutions.
Select controls according to a hierarchy that emphasizes engineering solutions (including elimination or substitution) first, followed by safe work practices, administrative controls, and finally personal protective equipment (PPE), in that order.
Avoid selecting controls that may directly or indirectly introduce new hazards. Examples include exhausting contaminated air into occupied work spaces or using hearing protection that makes it difficult to hear backup alarms.
Review and discuss control options with workers to ensure that controls are feasible and effective.
Use a combination of control options when no single method fully protects workers.
Support Materials for OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs
- Safety and Health Program Audit Tool, that can be used to evaluate your program, how well it is implemented, and identify areas for growth.
- Safety and Health Program Existing OSHA Standards Crosswalk, that can be used to jumpstart a safety and health program by identifying actions already taken to comply with OSHA standards
- Walk-Arounds for Safety Officers
- Using the OSHA 300 Log to Improve Safety and Health https://www.osha.gov/safeandsound/docs/SHP_That-Was-No-Accident.pdf
For more information, please contact the Safety and Health Department at (202) 624-6960.