Managing employees involves more than simply setting schedules or approving vacation days. Ensuring the safety and security of workers is a large portion of the job, specifically in dangerous professions such as construction, logging, and commercial fishing. To keep everyone safe, employers look to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for life-saving guidelines.
This past year, over 70 new rules, pre-rules, or final rules have been instated and rigidly upheld by OSHA. Employers are expected to stay “on top” of the ongoing changes in the realm of workplace safety and keep their employees informed at all times.
Complying with OSHA standards is largely up to the employer. In fact, OSHA gives employees certain rights to take action and ensure their workplace is safe. For example, workers may file complaints regarding unsafe working conditions or refuse to work when they face imminent danger in the workplace. The worker’s employer cannot retaliate based on these disputes and such complaints are directly addressed by OSHA. To avoid these issues, employers must take it upon themselves to know the guidelines and follow them.
Below, we’ve summarized 5 important points to help maintain a consistent schedule of staying informed and keeping employees safe in your facility.
1. Be Consistently Knowledgeable
This is the most obvious foundation for understanding and adhering to the new OSHA directives. However, successfully meeting these regulation changes is an extensive and rigorous process for many companies.
The age of the internet makes this kind of information very accessible – so much so that there is no real reason why companies should not be fully updated at all times. The OSHA website is the best (and easiest) place to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest regulations and provides a slew of guidance and documentation on how to efficiently implement these rules in the workplace.
2. Designate a Role
It may be worth considering adding a full-time position (or a part-time position for smaller companies) to successfully enforce these regulations at a worksite. Some larger organizations have a safety professional on staff who is solely responsible for conducting all safety audits, maintaining a safety plan, and providing updated trainings for employees. In smaller companies, these duties typically fall on the facilities manager or an employee in Human Resources.
Hiring a dedicated safety professional is both effective and productive, and also provides a sense of security throughout the company. Choosing shortcuts by assigning safety duties among several employees can create chaos and leaves a large margin for error. Given the harsh penalties and the rigidity of OSHA’s rules, it’s best not to gamble.
3. Worksite Analysis
Whether or not an organization hires a safety professional, there must be regular inspections of equipment, work spaces and ergonomics, chemical exposures, overall processes, and employee conduct. This is the only way an employer can improve upon safety issues and develop an enhanced system of operations.
Once worksite hazards have been identified, the next step is getting them under control. Injury preventative plans may include tasks such as maintaining equipment; ensuring employees know how to use and maintain personal protective equipment; confirming all employees understand and follow safe work procedures; and investing in a facility-specific medical program to help prevent workplace hazards and exposures.
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Safety inspections are not limited to large organizations; even small businesses must comply with OSHA safety standards. Since smaller business owners may not be as familiar with OSHA regulations or may have a different level of standards according to their size, there are various voluntary compliance programs available to assist. The OSHA Consultation Service helps small employers identify potential hazards and how to improve their occupational safety and health management. The service also offers third party training and education for employees.
4. Staff Trainings
Safety trainings should occur regularly, even without changes to OSHA regulations. For example, after a safety audit of all processes is conducted, a training or some kind of follow-up meeting should be held to review any significant issues that were uncovered.
If there are no safety professionals appointed, employers don’t need to worry about bringing in an OSHA representative or hiring an outside source to conduct the training sessions. OSHA provides guidance in their documentation and resources to help employers educate their workers.
Keeping a log of all accidents that occur in the workplace is now an official OSHA final rule. By upholding this requirement, not only are regulations being met, but a track record of safety improvements (or lack thereof) is made. This information is invaluable when creating a new safety plan.
1. All establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit their injury and illness data to OSHA annually.
2. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries each year.
3. All submissions to OSHA must be made electronically via a secure internet connection.
4. OSHA will then publish the data online.
The goal of this rule is to keep organizations accountable and prompt them to uphold their image, similar to the publication of restaurant health inspection results. Keeping accurate records of work-related accidents or illnesses not only complies with regulations, but also benefits employers and their companies.
It may seem like an inconvenience to some workers to spend a portion of their day focusing on safety measures. Perhaps the most important thing an organization can do is assist workers in adapting to the changes in regulations and safety processes. Successful employers will lead a newly-updated safety plan without creating an extra burden for employees.
Regardless of how well employees adhere to the proper safety measures set in place, it is still the responsibility of the employer to keep the plan consistent and keep employees up-to-date. Good communication is essential for successful safety plan implementation. Without consistent and clear communication among coworkers, managers, and other staff, meeting OSHA regulations is not the only thing that is at risk for failure.
For a list of regulations for specific industries, visit the OSHA website.