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Six steps on How to Write & Implement A Safety and Health Program

Safety and health written programs can establish and provide procedures, guidelines and documentation for safety practices such as equipment inspection, training, evaluation of contractors and performance review through job observations. Anything less would be a breakdown of your safety system. So, where should your agency begin? It should begin with obtaining a commitment from management. Step 1: Management’s Commitment Management’s commitment provides the motivating force and resources for organizing and controlling activities within your agency. Most important is the allocating or budgeting of money for safety manpower. Through regular visible involvement and establishing a written safety and health policy that’s signed, dated and posted for everyone to see, management will set the stage for employee involvement. Without a demonstrated commitment, a policy becomes useless and the efforts of safety personnel become futile. The final commitment from management needs to be an assessment or review process. Assessments are the measurement tool for evaluating how well your agency’s safety and health process is working and where the process may need improvement. An internal team or a third party can conduct this assessment. Step 2: Employee Involvement Employees at every level of your agency need to be involved in the safety and health process. The more employees that are involved, the better off the process is going to be. In addition, those employees will take safe practices home with them – where most of the disabling injuries occur. There are many opportunities for employees to participate in the safety and health program. Several areas where employees can be used effectively include:

  • Safety committees
  • Incident investigations
  • Inspections
  • Emergency response teams
  • Development of operating procedures and Job Safety Analyses (JSAs)
  • Presentations of training topics

Step 3: What needs to be in Writing? With thorough assessments, your agency can determine what written procedures and guidelines are necessary. Information for these assessments can be gathered by asking a few questions. Listed below are some examples of questions that your agency might ask:

  • Do employees work on electrical equipment that requires lockout/tagout?
  • Do spaces in the facility require confined space entry?
  • Is hot work (welding, cutting, burning, etc.) conducted in areas where a hot work permit is necessary?
  • Will employees be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment?
  • Are chemicals used that require industrial hygiene monitoring?
  • Does the research laboratory need a chemical hygiene plan?
  • Does the agency need a safe driving program?
  • Is a medical surveillance process needed?

Another indicator that certain safety programs are needed involve Job Safety Analyses (JSAs). JSAs should be established for each job task. JSAs breakdown each step in a task, identify potential hazards associated with each step and then develop the protective measures to prevent the hazard from causing an injury. Upon completion of the assessment, your agency should evaluate the results and begin writing the procedures and guidelines. If the assessment determines a need for written procedures and guidelines, the task should be assigned to an individual who can ensure that they are developed, implemented and updated as necessary. At a minimum, a written safety process should include:

  • Proper meeting and control of safety and health hazards
  • Training
  • Incident reporting
  • Emergency programs and procedures
  • Division of responsibility and accountability

Step 4: Controlling & Monitoring Hazards Applicable government safety and health regulations must be observed in both design and operations in order to help control hazards. Proactive tools for maintaining safe working conditions include:

  • Mechanical integrity
  • Industrial hygiene and exposure assessment
  • Housekeeping inspections
  • Corrective action systems
  • Design concepts
  • Operating procedures
  • Safe work practices
  • Site safety and health procedures

Preventive maintenance procedures for eyewash/safety shower units, fire extinguishers, fire suppression systems, grounding systems, machine guarding, ladders, scaffolding, mobile platforms, combustible gas indicators, personal protective equipment, ventilation systems, warning signs and other safety and loss prevention equipment should be written into the plan as well. Step 5: Training A critical part of training involves the “new employee orientation.” This is your agency’s time to make an impression regarding their commitment towards employee safety and well being. Without a solid safety orientation, your agency’s opportunity is lost to inform new employees of the safety philosophy and expected safety practices. Training should also include operating procedures, so that employees understand requirements to complete a task safely. Training and refresher training should be conducted for employees that transfer into a new department and when procedures are reviewed or updated. A written training schedule should be developed for each job in your agency to determine required training topics and topics that are job/area specific. Hazcom, respiratory protection, hearing conservation, lockout/tagout, confined space entry, powered industrial truck and fire extinguisher are all Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) required training topics that need to be completed in an appropriate time frame. Finally, it is the responsibility of your agency to ensure that contractors are properly trained, well informed and evaluated while performing work. Contractors need to be aware of what is required of them while performing work, what the permit programs entail (confined space, lockout/tagout, hot work, etc.) and what to do in the event of an emergency. Step 6: Incident Reporting & Analysis Any incident should be viewed as an opportunity to better the safety and health process. A written incident reporting system should include when and to whom an employee, visitor or contractor should report an incident, how an investigation will be conducted, who determines corrective actions and who tracks them to completion. Your agency should analyze the findings from the investigation, develop corrective actions, track to completion and communicate the findings to employees – if this is done, the chances of the incident reoccurring will vastly decrease. These six steps should take your agency towards an effective safety and health program. In addition, remember that safety and health programs should not be viewed as a hindrance, but an enhancement towards bettering your agency’s loss record.

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