OSHA's updated guidelines for health and safety programs reflect changes in the economy, evolving safety concerns and modern workplaces.

OSHA Guidelines: The Foundation for Your Safety and Health Program

The Workplace Today Regulation

A safe workplace is sound business, which means having an effective safety and health program built on the recommended practices found in OSHA guidelines.

According to OSHA, a safe workplace is sound business. That means having an effective safety and health program, something that’s now a little easier with the updated OSHA guidelines. These guidelines provide the foundation for your safety and health program, helping you prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and even fatalities. They encourage you to take a proactive approach to safety.

Core Elements of Successful Safety and Health Programs

According to OSHA, an effective safety and health program includes the following elements, some of which flesh out the meaning of OSHA’s general duty clause to provide a safe workplace and make safety everyone’s job.

1. Management Leadership and Worker Participation

These areas are now separate components reinforcing that safety and health should be a shared responsibility ingrained in the culture of your workplace. This means that everyone is committed to eliminating hazards, protecting workers and continuously improving workplace safety and health. All workers should participate, including contractors, subcontractors and staff recruited from temporary staffing agencies.

Key points include:

  • Worker participation. Your employees typically know about potential safety hazards associated with their own specific job and/or department. However, your management leadership should also have skin in the game, setting an example and providing the resources needed to put a program into action and keep it running.
  • The right to work in a safe environment. For the safety and health program to be effective, workers should feel safe in reporting hazards, knowing that, as their employer, you will not retaliate, and that you will in fact encourage workers to exercise safety and health practices in the workplace.

2. Hazard Identification, Assessment, Prevention and Control

Hazard guidelines help you identify hazards and fix the problems using the hierarchy of controls. Effective controls help your workers avoid injuries, illnesses and incidents; minimize safety and health risks; and help you provide a safe working environment.

Key considerations include:

  • Conducting periodic workplace inspections, preferably monthly, but at least quarterly.
  • Investigating injuries, illnesses, incidents and close calls or near misses to determine the underlying hazards and proactively identify hazards that could have been prevented.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of your hazard controls using engineering first, then administrative and personal protective equipment when needed.

3. Program Evaluation and Improvement

This section is also a separate component in the OSHA guidelines. Safety and health programs should be evaluated at least once a year so you know that the program is working and being maintained as intended. Some considerations include:

  • Setting goals for your program. When it comes time for a review, you’ll be able to determine if your program is making progress.
  • Once again, encouraging employee participation, helping to identify ways to improve the program.
  • Sharing results and celebrating successes.

4. Communication and Coordination With Host Employers, Contractors and Staff Agencies

Today, the work environment often includes workers from staffing agencies or contractors. In these environments, communication and coordination is absolutely critical. In each area, you need to know how the work can affect the safety of others at the worksite and consistent procedures should also apply.

Key considerations include:

  • In a temporary situation, workers come from staffing agencies to work at your worksite. As the host employer, these employees are usually under your direction and control and will need to be trained regarding all hazards.
  • In a multi-employer situation, some workers are employed by you as the host employer and others by a contractor or subcontractor.

As the OSHA guidelines puts it, effective communication and coordination means that everyone (host employers, contractors and staffing agencies) are aware of:

  • The types of hazards that may be present or arise
  • The procedures to control exposure to hazards
  • How to contact the host employer or staffing firm to report a safety concern or injury, illness or incident

5. Education and Training

This is the glue that ties it all together, providing employees with a better understanding of your overall safety culture and how to identify, report and control hazards. For the best results, training should be job specific, utilizing OSHA’s recommended practices guide for further resources, case studies, tools and more.

OSHA Guidelines: Getting Started

Start with simple goals and grow your program so that it’s designed for your specific business. The step-by-step approach provided by OSHA takes the mystery out of what’s needed, making it less overwhelming and providing the direction your business needs.

Some potential benefits of these programs include:

  • Preventing workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Improving compliance with laws and regulation
  • Reducing costs, including significant reductions in workers’ compensation premiums
  • Engaging workers
  • Enhancing social responsibility goals
  • Increasing productivity and enhance overall business operations

OSHA’s updated guidelines for health and safety programs reflect changes in the economy, evolving safety concerns and modern workplaces. The agency provides several resources you may find helpful, including 10 Easy Things to Get Your Program Started and the Recommended Practices. By familiarizing yourself with the updates, you can create and implement an effective safety and health program in your workplace.

Linda Light

Linda Light M.S., M. A.,  is an occupational safety and health expert who uses her unique background in safety, health and education to help companies implement and maintain effective safety programs.  As an Authorized OSHA Outreach Trainer in both General Industry and Construction, Linda has provided real world, meaningful safety and health guidance to literally thousands of individuals throughout the nation, and helped organizations lower their Workers' Compensation costs. In addition to presenting both the 10-Hour and 30-Hour OSHA Compliance Training for General Industry and Construction, Linda also provides safety solutions for other industries ranging from healthcare professionals to hospitality, education, manufacturing and more. With over 25 years of occupational health and safety experience, Linda knows how to take the mystery and boredom out of safety compliance. Using easy-to-understand examples, interactive material and a hands-on approach, she provides safety consultation and training that goes beyond the rules and regulations.