Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, has the responsibility of assuring the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.
Twenty-four states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands operate their own OSHA-approved safety and health programs under Section 18 of the Act. While the programs in these states may differ in some respects from Federal OSHA, the standards imposed by State Plan States must be at least as effective as Federal OSHA standards. A list of states that operate their own safety and health programs can be found on OSHA's website.
Safety and Health Add Value
Addressing safety and health issues in the workplace saves the employer money and adds value to the business. Recent estimates place the business costs associated with occupational injuries at close to $170 billion - expenditures that come straight out of company profits.
When workers stay whole and healthy, the direct cost-savings to businesses include:
- lower workers' compensation insurance costs;
- reduced medical expenditures;
- smaller expenditures for return-to-work programs;
- fewer faulty products;
- lower costs for job accommodations for injured workers;
- less money spent for overtime benefits.
Safety and health also make big reductions in indirect costs, due to:
- increased productivity;
- higher quality products;
- increased morale;
- better labor/management relations;
- reduced turnover;
- better use of human resources.
Employees and their families benefit from safety and health because:
- their incomes are protected;
- their family lives are not hampered by injury;
- they have less stress.
Simply put, protecting people on the job is in everyone's best interest - our economy, our communities, our fellow workers and our families. Safety and health add value to businesses, workplaces and lives.
Developing a profitable strategy for handling occupational safety and health
Nobody wants accidents to happen in his or her business. A serious fire, a permanent injury, or the death of an employee or owner can cause the loss of profit or even an entire business. To prevent such losses, you don't have to turn your business upside down. You may not have to spend a lot of money, either. You do need to use good business sense and apply recognized prevention principles.
There are reasons why accidents happen. Something goes wrong somewhere. It may take some thought, and maybe the help of friends or other trained people, to figure out what went wrong, but an accident always has a cause - a reason why. Once you know why an accident happened, it is possible to prevent future incidents. You need some basic facts and perhaps some help from others who already know some of the answers. You also need a plan to prevent accidents.
Not all dangers at your worksite depend on an accident to cause harm, of course. Worker exposure to toxic chemicals or harmful levels of noise or radiation may happen in conjunction with routine work as well as by accident. You may not realize the extent of the exposure or harm that you and your employees face. The effect may not be immediate. You need a plan that includes prevention of these health hazard exposures and accidents. You need a safety and health management system.
It is not difficult to develop such a plan. Basically, your plan should address the types of accidents and health hazard exposures that could happen in your workplace. Because each workplace is different, your program should address your specific needs and requirements.
There are four basic elements to all good safety and health programs. These are as follows:
Management Commitment and Employee Involvement
The manager or management team leads the way, by setting policy, assigning and supporting responsibility, setting an example and involving employees.
The worksite is continually analyzed to identify all existing and potential hazards.
Hazard Prevention and Control
Methods to prevent or control existing or potential hazards are put in place and maintained.
Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers
Managers, supervisors and employees are trained to understand and deal with worksite hazards.
Regardless of the size of your business, you should use each of these elements to prevent workplace accidents and possible injuries and illnesses.
The Four-Point Workplace Program is based upon the Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines issued by OSHA in January 1989. Although voluntary, these guidelines represent OSHA's policy on what every worksite should have in place to protect workers from occupational hazards. The guidelines are based heavily on OSHA's experience with its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), which recognize excellence in workplace safety and health management.
Abrasive Wheel Equipment Grinders Checklist
Compressed Gas Cylinders Checklist
Compressors and Compressed Air Checklist
Compressors / Air Receivers Checklist
Control of Harmful Substances by Ventilation Checklist
Elevated Surfaces Checklist
Employer Posting Checklist
Entering Confined Spaces Checklist
Environmental Controls Checklist
Exit Doors Checklist
Exiting or Egress - Evacuation Checklist
Fire Protection Checklist
Flammable and Combustible Materials Checklist
Floor and Wall Openings Checklist
General Work Environment Checklist
Hand Tools and Equipment Checklist
Hazardous Chemical Exposure Checklist
Hazardous Substances Communication Checklist
Hoist and Auxiliary Equipment Checklist
Identification of Piping Systems Checklist
Industrial Trucks - Forklifts Checklist
Lockout / Tagout Procedures Checklist
Machine Guarding Checklist
Materials Handling Checklist
Medical Services and First Aid Checklist
Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing Checklist
Portable Ladders Checklist
Portable (Power Operated) Tools and Equipment Checklist
Power-Actuated Tools Checklist
Safety and Health Program Checklist
Sanitizing Equipment and Clothing Checklist
Spraying Operations Checklist
Stairs and Stairways Checklist
Tire Inflation Checklist
Transporting Employees and Materials Checklist
Welding, Cutting and Brazing Checklist
Information courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.