Are You Ready for The Very Best Safety and Health ProgramEver?

When it comes to packaged safety programs, this safety expert warns, buyer beware!

Every year somebody comes up with the very best safety program ... ever! Thousands of organizations jump on the band wagon and spend millions of dollars buying and implementing this very best safety program ever, only to find out months and even years down the road that the program does not work. By that time, there is another "very best safety programever" and the whole group is off and running again, chasing after something they will never reach -- a safety program that works!

The only thing accomplished in the above scenario is, someone is making a lot of money at the expense of your organization and your employees that are continuing to die or receive disabling injuries and illnesses at an alarming rate.

On the job injuries and illnesses are estimated to cost workplaces in this country about $170 billion a year. What this is saying is that workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses are a $170 billion a year industry for someone. Do you really think that those who are profiting from your losses really want you to fix the problems? If you do, and millions of you must, then you are in line for the next very best safety program, ever.

Now don't get me wrong, there are usually one or two things in every new mousetrap...er..safety program, that make sense and may have a temporary effect on the number of injuries and illnesses in your workplace. But before you know it, you will be back to square one.

You are not going to change any workplace by bringing in a program from the outside. The change has to come from within and it will not cost your organization thousands of dollars. What it will cost your organization is a few hurt feelings and some tough leadership decisions.

Consider this a "Safety and Health Program for DUMMIES" and let's take a look at the elements of a simple, yet effective, safety and health program. You will see that the changes you are so desperate to achieve come from management leadership and not just through employee direction.

Major Elements of an Effective Safety and Health Program

1. Management Commitment & Employee Involvement

Management's commitment provides the motivating force and the resources for organizing and controlling activities within an organization. In an effective safety and health program, management regards worker safety and health as a fundamental value of the organization and applies its commitment to safety and health protection with as much vigor as to other organizational goals.

Employee involvement provides the means by which workers develop and/or express their own commitment to safety and health protection for themselves and for their fellow workers.

In implementing a safety and health program, there are various ways to provide commitment and support by management and employees. Some recommended actions include:

  • State clearly a worksite policy on safe and healthful work and working conditions, so that all personnel fully understand the priority and importance of safety and health protection in the organization.
  • Establish and communicate a clear goal for the safety and health program.
  • Define objectives for meeting the above goals.
  • Insure that all members of the organization understand the desired results and the measures planned for achieving them.
  • Provide visible top management involvement (not just in the form of a memo) in implementing the program.
  • Arrange for and encourage employees' involvement in the structure and operation of the safety and health program. Their insight will prove to be very valuable since their insight is based on actual conditions rather than conditions perceived by management.
  • Assign and communicate responsibility for each aspect of the safety and health program so that managers, supervisors and employees know what performance is expected of them. Thinking that one person can be responsible for the entire safety and health program is a strategic point of failure in many organizations.
  • Provide adequate authority and resources to responsible parties so assigned responsibilities can be met.
  • Hold managers, supervisors and employees accountable for meeting their responsibilities so essential tasks will be performed. (Accountability is another key strategic failure point for most organizations)
  • Review safety and health program operations monthly to evaluate their success in meeting the goals and objectives, so deficiencies can be identified and the program and/or objectives can be revised if they do not meet the goal of effective safety and health protection.

2. Worksite Analysis

A practical analysis of the work environment involves a variety of worksite examinations in order to identify existing hazards, as well as conditions and operations in which hazards could occur.

Effective management utilizes trained and knowledgeable team members in analyzing the work and worksite to identify, anticipate and prevent hazardous conditions and harmful occurrences.

In order that all hazards and potential hazards are identified, the following measures are recommended:

  • Conduct comprehensive baseline worksite surveys for safety and health hazards.
  • Conduct periodic comprehensive update surveys.
  • Analyze new and planned facilities, process, materials and equipment before hazard exposures become an issue.
  • Perform job hazard analysis for each job, not just production jobs.
  • Conduct regular site safety and health inspections so that new or previously missed hazards and failures in hazard controls are identified.
  • Provide a reliable system for employees to notify management personnel about conditions that appear hazardous and to receive timely and appropriate responses and encourage employees to use the system without fear of reprisal. This utilizes employee insight and experience in safety and health protection and allows employee concerns to be addressed.
  • Investigate accidents and "near miss" incidents so their causes and means for their prevention can be identified.
  • Analyze injury and illness trends (including first aid injury reports) so that patterns with common causes can be identified and prevented.

3. Hazard Prevention and Control

Where feasible, workplace hazards are prevented by effective design of the job site or job. Where it is not feasible to eliminate such hazards, they must be controlled to prevent unsafe and unhealthful exposures. Employers should establish procedures to correct or control present or potential hazards in a timely manner. These procedures should include measures such as the following:

  • Use engineering techniques where feasible and appropriate.
  • Establish, at the earliest time, safe work practices and procedures that are understood and followed by all affected parties.
  • Understanding and compliance are a result of training, positive reinforcement, correction of unsafe performance and when necessary, enforcement through a clearly communicated disciplinary system.
  • Provide personal protective equipment when engineering controls are infeasible or while they are being implemented.
  • Use administrative controls, such as reducing the duration of exposure.
  • Maintain the facility and equipment to prevent equipment breakdowns.
  • Plan and prepare for emergencies, and conduct training and emergency drills as needed, to ensure that proper responses to emergencies will be "second nature" for all persons involved.
  • Establish a medical program that includes first aid onsite as well as nearby physician and emergency medical care to maximize the recovery and reduce the extent of disability of any injury or illness that occurs.

4. Safety & Health Training

Training is an essential component of an effective safety and health program. Training addresses the safety and health responsibilities of both management and employees, salaried and hourly paid employees.

Employee Training: Employee training programs should be designed to ensure that all employees understand and are aware of the hazards to which they are, or may be exposed and the proper methods for avoiding such hazards.

Supervisory & Management Training: The management team should be trained to understand the key role they play in job site safety to enable them to carry out their assigned responsibilities under the organization's safety and health program. Training programs for the management team should include the following:

  • Basic hazard awareness and identification education.
  • Analyzing the work under the supervision to anticipate and identify potential hazards.
  • The importance of maintaining physical protections in their work areas.
  • Reinforcing employee training on the nature of potential hazards in their work areas and on needed protective measures, through continual performance feedback and, as necessary, through enforcement of safe work practices.
  • Understanding their safety and health responsibilities.

When you begin this process within your organization, you will find resistance in the usual places. That is why top management's support is essential. Top management will have to hold their senior management team accountable for seeing that the implementation and acceptance of the organization's safety and health program is a success. Anything less will result in occasional successes but overall failure.

Share this example with your senior management team and you might find them to be more responsive.

ABC Co. had accident-related direct cost of $25,000 in FY 1999. Indirect costs are estimated to be roughly 2 times the direct cost, an additional $50,000 for a combined total of $75,000. In addition, workers' compensation insurance premiums were $200,000.

ABC Co. is very good at what it does and operates at a net profit of 5 percent.

Based on this information, to recover the cost of their accident and workers' compensation insurance premiums of $275,000, divide this total by their profit margin.

$275,000 / .05 = $5,500,000

You read it right. ABC Co. has to produce $5,500,000 in revenue just to pay for the accident and workers' compensation insurance cost from last year!

Now, this is where the rubber meets the road. Insert your numbers into this equation and see where your organization really is, then you will be able to establish some realistic goals.

I hope you come to realize that there is no magic potion that can replace hard work and committed efforts by each member of your organization. It boils down to the old saying, "Plan your work and work your plan."

William H. Finch, the creator of the Pocket Digest of OSHA Standards and the Pocket Digest of OSHA Construction Standards is the owner of Occupational Safety Consultants and SafeTrack Seminars. He is available for speaking engagements, management awareness training and project consultation. He can be reached at (803) 327-0711 or you can visit the web site at www.oshadigest.com

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