How to Develop a Safety Program in 6 Easy Steps

According to the OSHA website, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in 2013. Of that number, 817 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed from work-related injuries – which is more than 15 deaths a week.

In addition, fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 16 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2013.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also report that another 3.0 million workers experienced nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2013.

“Making a living shouldn’t have to cost you your life. Workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses are preventable. Safe jobs happen because employers make the choice to fulfill their responsibilities and protect their workers. “- Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health

These staggering numbers speak to an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and hazard free workplace.  Having a well defined safety program can help keep a focus on maintaining a safe workplace.

The goal of a safety program should be to create a system to support the identification, evaluation and prevention or control of hazards that goes beyond legal requirements. The system should also train employees to be aware of, and understand, safety issues.

Using employees to help identify potentially dangerous work areas and things that need correcting makes them aware and encourages them to take ownership of workplace safety.

As organizations grow and workplace complexities increase, the need for written guidelines, policies and procedures increases. However, written guidelines are not as important as the effectiveness of the program. And, policies and procedures are only as effective as they are enforced.

How to Develop a Safety Program in 6 Easy Steps

1. Appoint a Safety Officer

Someone should be given the responsibility to oversee the safety program. This person should have an understanding of their responsibilities and accountability for maintaining a safe workplace.

A safety officer monitors workplace activities to ensure that workers comply with company policies and government safety regulations. Some of the duties of a safety officers includes policy development, safety inspections, safety training and compliance with OSHA standards.

These responsibilities should be included in the employee’s job description and incorporated into the performance management process.

2. Perform a Safety Inspection

According to the OSHA website, 4,585 workers were killed on the job in 2013. Of that number, 817 Hispanic or Latino workers were killed from work-related injuries – which is more than 15 deaths a week.A workplace safety inspection should be done on a regular basis to identify areas that need correcting.

This includes identifying fire emergency exits, things that could cause a slip or fall, inspecting exits for clear routes, ensuring ergonomics are used properly, adequate lighting, protective clothing (where applicable), proper use of chemicals and maintenance equipment safety issues.

This should also include a review of new facilities, materials, equipment and all related processes.

3. Perform Safety Incident Investigations

It is important to conduct a safety investigation as soon as an incident is reported – ideally within 24 hours. When investigating an incident, try to answer the who, what, where, when, how and why of the incident.

Going through these questions will allow you to drill down on the issue and make recommendations for a safety improvement plan.

An incident report should also be completed on every accident, injury or illness that happens in the work place. Safety improvements should be documented and maintained in the safety officer’s office. OSHA has some reporting requirements that can be found on the OSHA Website.

4. Form a Safety Committee

Establish a safety committee to oversee the entire process.  The safety committee should include front line employees, facility/maintenance representatives as well as other leaders in the organization.  Front-line employees can help identify and resolve health and safety problems because of their unique perspective.

Committee Responsibilities:

Identify workplace hazards
This should include inspections of all buildings and talking to workers about unsafe work practices and conditions that are potentially hazardous.  The safety committee is also responsible for writing policies and procedures for inspections.

Assess Safety Issues
This is done by reviewing accident records and looking for trends that might contribute to hazards.  There should be an accident investigation, and review of recent incident reports and accidents should be done before every inspection.

An annual review of the safety program should also be done.  This is simply a time to review the safety policies and conducting a walk-through of the organization.

Problem Resolution
Management of safety involves following up on all issues and ensuring resolution has been done. This is in addition to correcting issues and general oversight of the safety management of the organization.

Safety Records
The safety committee should keep records of all incidents,  safety meetings and any recommendations that are made.

5. Perform Safety Training

All employees should be required to go through safety training. This will help them understand safety policies and procedures and their responsibility in helping maintain a safe work environment.  This training should include identifying unsafe work conditions, process of reporting of illness or injury and use of personal protective equipment.

Employees who work with hazardous materials should be trained on proper handling, storage and use of chemicals.  Training should also include new processes or procedures as they are introduced or new equipment that may pose a hazardous situation.

It is important that employees have a reporting process to alert management of potential hazards. Lastly, this training should be documented and incorporated in the new employee orientation process.

6. Safety Must Be Driven From The Top Down 

Safety must be driven from top management throughout the organization. Employees will only be as committed to workplace safety as senior leadership demonstrates. The more visible leadership is in supporting workplace safety, the more successful it will be.

According to the OSHA website, effective management of worker safety and health programs not only benefits workers but also helps the organization by:

  • Reducing the extent and severity of work related injuries and illnesses.
  • Improving employee morale and productivity.
  • Reducing workers’ compensation costs.

No one can argue that providing  a safe workplace for your employees is simply the right thing to do. But, maintaining a safe work place can also benefit your organization by improving employee morale and reducing workers compensation costs.

For more information on how to improve the safety of your work place visit the OSHA website.

When was the last time you assessed the safety of your organization?

photo courtesy of: SharonWright

Article originally published October, 2010, updated May, 2015.