How to Develop a Simple, Cost-Effective Safety & Health Program
A Small Business Guide
This guide has been developed for small business owners and managers to help them protect their employee's safety and health. The ACGIH® Small Business Committee has produced this guide to provide simple, low-cost solutions to safety and health hazards.
You want your workplace to be safe, but how do you know where to start? This guide is designed to help you get started by suggesting some ways to identify hazards, prevent losses, and reduce costs. No book or brochure can tell you how to prevent all workplace injuries and illnesses. But the people who know your workplace best (that's you and your employees) can use this guide to make it a safer place to work.
Besides the fact that you do not want anyone to get hurt, there is another good reason for a safety and health program: Accidents cost money. For most companies, one big accident can mean going out of business. Even a small accident can cost your business in many ways:
In any business, small or large, the general goal is to prevent injuries and illnesses. Prevention requires a plan and one way to start is to develop a safety and health program.
7 Elements of an Effective Safety and Health Program
Here are seven steps you can take to develop your safety and health program:
Decide who in your business will be given responsibility and authority to manage this program. As the owner, you may decide to take the responsibility yourself or you may elect to appoint the manager or an experienced employee of the business as the person to develop and set up the program. Your program's success hinges on the individual you choose, and he/she cannot succeed without your full cooperation and support. Also remember that even when you appoint a safety manager and delegate authority to manage the program, the ultimate responsibility for safety and health in your workplace still rests with you.
Involve all of your employees as part of the program. Give each employee responsibility for following your safety and health procedures and for recognizing and reporting hazards in his/her immediate work area. Allowing employees to suggest solutions gives you ideas on how to fix hazards and gives them pride in and commitment to whatever changes you make.
Do a complete "wall-to-wall" survey of your workplace. Look for obvious safety hazards such as conditions that may cause your employees to slip, trip, fall, or in some other way hurt themselves. Also look for health hazards such as chemicals or noisy equipment that may cause employee health problems.
Evaluate your existing program (no matter how informal it might be) to identify areas that may be working well and those that may need improvement. Make an overall list of the major changes and improvements you need to make in order to prevent accidents and illnesses. Take each of these major changes and develop a specific, written action plan for making that change. Define what you will do in writing and state when you will do it.
Conduct thorough and complete investigations of any accident. This is the primary tool you should be using in an effort to identify and recognize the areas responsible for accidents. The investigation should be documented in writing and should adequately identify the cause(s) of the accident and even the "close call" or "near-miss" occurrence.
Accident investigations should be conducted by your most trained individuals or maybe even an outside consultant. You should try to understand why the accident or near miss occurred and what actions can be taken to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Training is one of the most important parts of any safety and health program. It allows employees to learn their jobs properly, brings new ideas into the workplace, reinforces existing ideas and practices, and puts your program into action. Go over the results of your survey, any accident investigations, and the overall program. Everyone should be trained, both supervisors and employees. Your employees benefit from safety and health training through fewer work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as reduced stress and worry caused by exposure to hazards. You benefit from reduced workplace injuries and illnesses, increased productivity, lower costs, higher profits, and a more cohesive and dependable work force.
Quarterly, semiannually or annually look at each part in your written safety and health program. Determine what is working well and what changes, if any, are needed. When you need to change something, use numbered elements 1- 6 of this section to rethink your new program.
No program can be successful without good recordkeeping. Maintaining and periodically reviewing your records let you learn from the past and make corrections for the future. Records of accidents, work-related illnesses, doctor's reports, insurance reports, chemical inventories, employment records, and equipment instruction manuals serve as a valuable resource.
Whether your program has all seven elements described in this guide is not important. What is important is that the program you develop protects you and your employees' safety and health. You may need outside professionals to help you develop and conduct part or all of your program. Some good sources for free or low-cost help are listed below:
Sources for Additional Information
Basic Health and Safety Library for Small Business