[This article was written by Emma Yulini.]
A safety program is essentially a set of policies and procedures you develop and document to reduce or even completely eliminate accidents, injuries, and work-related illnesses from your business.
As a business owner and/or safety manager, it’s crucial to do everything you can to provide a safer workplace, and this is why having a safety program is a must.
However, planning and developing a safety management program can be quite challenging, especially if this is your first time. This is why in this guide we will discuss how you can effectively plan and manage a safety program, and by the end of this article, you’ll be able to:
- Assign roles and responsibilities to improve safety in the workplace
- Identify workplace hazards and communicate these hazards to your workers
- Educate and train your workers on safety training and safety requirements in your industry
- Keep records of your safety program activities to help demonstrate your due diligence
Without further ado, let us begin.
Step 1: Develop Your Safety Policy
Above anything else, a safety policy is about providing information about your business’s commitment to occupational health and safety. Thus, your safety policy should state:
- Your business’s commitment to protecting the health and safety of your workers
- The responsibilities of the owner, supervisors, employees, suppliers, contractors, and even customers/visitors
- The plan of communicating the health and safety programs
- The plan of implementing the safety program
The most senior person in the organization should sign this policy statement, and this policy should be reviewed and updated every three years or whenever there is a significant change in the workplace.
Step 2: Assign and Communicate Responsibilities
To implement the safety policy into action, it’s essential to inform everyone in the workplace about the policy and educate everyone on their roles and responsibilities in maintaining a safe workplace.
It’s crucial to communicate roles and responsibilities through the safety policy so that all workers (including managers) are familiar with the safety regulations that are applicable to the work they do.
Step 3: Identifying Hazards In The Workplace
You can’t have a proper safety program before you’ve properly identified the potential hazards in your workplace.
We can define a “hazard” as any condition or activity that—when not managed—can result in a workplace-related injury, illness, or property damage.
Hazards can be:
- People: actions taken (or neglected) by people can potentially create workplace hazards.
- Equipment: defective tools and equipment, incorrect usage, inadequate guarding, inadequate electrical wiring, and inadequate warning systems, among other issues.
- Materials and supplies: wrong type of materials (i.e. toxic chemicals), improper handling of materials
- Environment: for example, poor workplace housekeeping, inadequate ventilation, extreme weather temperatures, inadequate lighting, noise pollution, and so on.
- Business process: the business process itself can be a hazard, for example, if the process creates potentially hazardous byproducts like heat, fumes, and noise.
We have to identify and document all hazards related to these five factors, and safety audit software can significantly help in performing risk assessments and safety audits to identify these hazards.
Step 4: Plan Your Hazard Controls
Now that we’ve identified the workplace hazards, the next step is to plan the actions required to control the hazard and minimize the risks associated with the hazard.
For each hazard, we should apply the following hazard control methods:
- Eliminate the hazard completely whenever possible, this should be the main priority
- When elimination is not possible, substitute the people, equipment, environment, material, and/or process with safer alternatives
- Implement administrative controls when substitution is not possible, including:
- Providing comprehensive written manuals to ensure safe work practices
- Intensive monitoring of the use of hazardous materials
- Intensive training (more on this later)
- Limiting exposure time to hazardous environments and materials (i.e. extreme temperatures)
- As a last resort when potentially hazardous activities can’t be avoided, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
You should also prepare emergency procedures and injury reporting procedures while considering the following:
- What to do in an emergency
- How to communicate the emergency
- Who should be contacted in the event of an emergency
- Where to find emergency instructions or procedures
- Where to find emergency equipment, first aid provisions, and other resources they may need during emergency
- Instructions manual to operate safety equipment
Step 5: Safety Training for Workers and Supervisors
Safety training is important to ensure your workers and supervisors have the required skill and knowledge to do their job efficiently and safely.
Safety training should be made mandatory as a part of onboarding new employees so they can learn safe work procedures, how to report incidents, and emergency response plans you’ve put into place.
Again, a safety management software solution like iReportSource can help in managing your safety training program, and you should plan safety training for:
- A new worker
- Workers returning to an activity where hazards of processes have changed
- Workers who moved to a new work location and/or assigned to a different task
- Facing new hazards
Step 6: Maintain Records and Review Your Safety Program
Now that you have a safety program in place, you must document your activities to show that you practice due diligence to comply with your safety and health regulations, but also to help you review the safety program.
It’s important to conduct regular scheduled inspections to ensure that your workers and supervisors are indeed following the safety program, and you should also review the documentation to track how your safety program is working.
As a bare minimum, you should review your program every three years or whenever there is a significant change that might affect your workplace hazards. It’s important to identify any new hazards as soon as possible.